The second wave of COVID has infected lakhs of people, killed thousands and financially battered numerous households and businesses. In the midst of this, 577 children stand orphaned, it has been revealed.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has stated that in the past 55 days, since the estimated onset of the second wave of COVID, 577 children from across the country have lost both parents. All of them are currently with their immediate families and their needs are being monitored and addressed by district authorities, the Ministry added.
Social media deluge
Social media has been awash with messages of kids being left parentless all of a sudden. WhatsApp forwards, in particular, share contact numbers to reach out to and/or adopt such children. Government agencies have repeatedly called out its illegality, since it could lead to child trafficking.
Also, these are mostly fake messages and highly misleading, they point out. Official adoptions can be routed only through the Central Adoption Resource Authority, the WCD Ministry has said.
If you come to know of any child who has lost both parents to COVID and has no one to take care of her/him, inform Police or Child Welfare Committee of your district or contact Childline 1098. It is your legal responsibility.
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) May 4, 2021
These events spurred the Ministry to look closer into the issue of COVID orphans. According to reports, it asked the state governments to make an official list of COVID orphans from their respective districts. The compilation revealed that the nation at present has 577 COVID orphans.
Smriti Irani, Minister for Women and Child Development, tweeted that the Centre is “committed to support and protect every vulnerable child due to loss of both parents to Covid-19”. “From 1st April 2021 till 2:00 PM today (Tuesday, May 25), the State Governments & UTs across the country have reported 577 children whose parents succumbed to Covid-19,” she added.
GOI is committed to support and protect every vulnerable child due to loss of both parents to Covid-19. From 1st April 2021 till 2:00 PM today, the State Governments & UTs across the country have reported 577 children whose parents succumbed to Covid-19.
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) May 25, 2021
The Centre has allotted ₹10 lakh per district for COVID orphans. District Magistrates are required to distribute the sum for non-institutional care of the children, under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme.
State government measures
Meanwhile, the state governments are also taking steps to protect the orphaned children. Some, such as Delhi, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh, have proposed financial aid and free education for the kids. Others plan welfare schemes. A major issue here is keeping track of the children, and making sure none slips through the cracks, said child welfare experts.
A team at Bengaluru’s National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) is prepared to offer counselling to orphaned children.
A PTI report quoted a government official as saying the Centre has sufficient funds to take care of the children’s welfare. The WCD Ministry has held meetings with various stakeholders, including the Unicef, the official said.