Orphaned by COVID: How Indian states are dealing with children who lost their parents to COVID-19

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The data on these children have been shared with the Department of Women and Child Development so that they can take necessary action on their part

The COVID-19 pandemic has crippled the world. While we fight off what can only be called the worst tragedy of our lifetime, the next generation is probably the worst affected. A report by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said that 30,071 children in India were orphaned till June 5 2021. This is very sad. But have we learnt anything from this? As we approach the much dreaded third wave, are we ready to ride it out? The states have taken steps to help these children out but are they being able to mitigate the problem? How are Indian states dealing with children affected by COVID directly, who lost parents to the  pandemic?

 

What do the numbers say?

As many as 26,176 children have lost one of their parents, 3,621 have lost both their parents and have been orphaned while 274 have been abandoned during the pandemic, said the report by NCPCR which was submitted to the Supreme Court of India. When the NCPCR went to the Supreme Court, the commission said Maharashtra is the state with the highest number of children being affected by COVID —7,084. It makes sense as Maharashtra was the worst affected state with a huge number of deaths due to COVID-19.

The other states where children are most affected: Uttar Pradesh (3,172), Rajasthan (2,482), Haryana (2,438), Madhya Pradesh (2,243), Andhra Pradesh (2,089), Kerala (2,002), Bihar (1,634) and Odisha (1,073). In Maharashtra out of the total 7,084, 6,865 have lost one of their parents, 217 have been orphaned as they lost both their mothers and father and two children have been abandoned, while Madhya Pradesh tops the chart of abandoned kids with 226 children been left alone with nowhere to go.

The NCPCR data also came up with a gender ratio profile of the children who have been orphaned. A total of 15,620 boys, 14,447 girls and four transgender kids have been victims to the worst time of history — with most children falling in the category of 8 to 13 years of age — 11,815.

“The Act, besides providing for an extensive procedure for children who have lost family support or are in need of assistance, also provides for an exhaustive procedure for adoption of orphan/abandoned/surrendered children. The adoption of orphan/ abandoned/ surrendered children is lawful only after the adoption procedure as given under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 is followed and the final adoption order is passed by the prescribed authority,” said NCPCR report. “It is further humbly submitted that care must be taken by the authorities to ensure that their any action is not in violation of Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. It is humbly submitted that the aforesaid provision prohibits disclosure of identity of children with regard to the name, school, age, address etc. of the child, which would reveal the essential details of the child and could help in identifying the child,” it added.

The NCPCR asked all the states and Union Territories to create a State Juvenile Justice Fund with the bank account details provided to the general public in order to enable them to credit donations/ contributions/ subscriptions directly in the said Account. What have the states done so far?

Delhi

The tragedy that Delhi went through during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic had shocked not only the entire country but the whole world. A total of 2000 children of Delhi have lost their parents during the COVID-19 outbreak in the capital. The Delhi Commission For Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) said that a total of 651 children lost their mothers, 1,311 children lost their fathers and 67 of the kids lost both their parents. The Delhi government has planned a monthly Rs 2,500 stipend for such children. The DCPCR has also launched a 24×7 helpline number — 9311551393. Anyone can report a case pertaining to child rights. The DCPCR helpline was launched in April and has been live for over three months and more than 4,500 complaints have been reported.

“The Commission has been able to trace more than 2,029 children who have lost either one or both their parents due to COVID. Of these, 67 children are those who have lost both their parents, whereas 651 children have lost their mothers and 1,311 their fathers due to the disease,” said the commission.

The data on these children have been shared with the Department of Women and Child Development so that they can take necessary action on their part and ensuring enrolling eligible beneficiaries in schemes from the Delhi government for children who have lost their parents due to COVID-19. A total of 2,200 complaints have been SOS calls that needed resolution on an urgent basis, the statement said.

Around 85 per cent of the SOS complaints were successfully resolved within 24 hours, while the remaining 15 per cent were resolved within 72 hours, the statement said. “It is just a humble beginning and the helpline has a long way to go to firmly establish itself as a useful and reliable medium. Going by the current trend, the Commission will receive nearly 20,000 complaints in the ongoing year. This is nearly 1,300 per cent of the average of the past three years and is two-and-a-half times the complaints the Commission has received in 12 years!” said Anurag Kundu, chairman, DCPCR.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on May 14 had said that the AAP government would bear the cost of education and upbringing of the children orphaned during the pandemic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also not behind in this. He has also announced a number of welfare measures for these children — a total of Rs 10 lakh when they turn 23 years of age and providing for their education.

Tamil Nadu

In Tamil Nadu, 159 children have lost one or both parents — 16 children lost both their parents while 143 lost a single parent, said the report by the National Commission for Child Protection. The state government had also announced that children who have lost both their parents will be given Rs 5 lakh as a lump sum deposit when they turn 18 years of age, that too along with interest, for those minors who have lost a single parent, a deposit of Rs 3 lakh will be granted. Children who will be taken care of by their relatives or guardians will also be given a monthly allowance of Rs 3,000 for maintenance.

Uttar Pradesh

The Uttar Pradesh government has now cleared total government aid for 2,224 children who have lost their parents to COVID-19. Among the 2,224 cases, 163 cases were of those who lost both parents. Under the state government scheme, a kid orphaned by COVID will receive Rs 4,000 per month till are 18-years-old. That’s not all. The Yogi government will also fund their education via the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya and Atal Residential Schools. Since its all online now, the government will also provide laptops or tablets for children who are in Class 10 or above. The state government is set to spend around Rs 11 crore annually on this financial aid.

Rajasthan

Rajasthan too has announced a financial aid package for kids orphaned by the Coronavirus pandemic. But they have not stopped at that and have also decided to help women who lost their husbands. The children whose parents died due to the disease will be getting Rs 1 lakh as an immediate grant and Rs 2,500 as a monthly aid till they are 18 years of age. the one-time grant for women is the same but they will get only Rs 1500 as monthly transfers thereafter.

The state government will also give Rs 1,000 a month per child and Rs 2,500 a month for school books and dresses to children and widows under the scheme. The Mukhyamantri Corona Bal Kalyan Yojna will provide for girl students studying in the colleges. They will be given admission on priority to hostels that are run by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment.

One can never replace the care and love a parent would have provided. But if these grants come in on time and do not just remain empty promises, it might help fill that void a bit and give these children a life that they deserve and the country a future it needs.

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