The Ministry of Women and Child Development finds the Lancet article dated February 24, 2022 giving estimates of children affected by Covid-19 associated orphanhood very surprising and contrary to field data in this regard.
Lancet has reported that more than 19 Lakh children have lost their primary caregivers due to covid in India.
There is no doubt that the researchers have used sophisticated methodology to estimate the numbers about children, who have lost their primary caregivers. But these findings have no correlation with ground reality in India as reflected from field findings.
As per field data coming from the States/UTs and being compiled as per the directions and monitoring of the SC, the numbers for India are about 1.53 Lakhs.
The Supreme Court of India in SMWP no. 4/2021 had directed all the States/UTs to identify each and every child who has lost one or more of their parents or have been abandoned during Covid due to any reason (Covid or otherwise) during the pandemic period.
The loss of parent could have been due to Covid, natural, unnatural, or from any other causeduring the period of pandemic. National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) furtherance to its function as a monitoring authority under section 109 of the Juvenile Justice Act, was asked to set up a portal called “Bal Swaraj” where this data has to be uploaded. Accordingly, NCPCR has been continuously tracking all the children who have lost their parents (either one or both) due to any reason and children who have been abandoned since 1st April, 2020.
The data/information of each child is captured, verified and examined so as to extend proper care, protection and benefits to all such children. So far, 1,53,827 children have been registered on the portal including 1,42,949 children with single parent, 492 abandoned children and 10,386 children who have lost both their parents. Annexure-I shows State/UT wise breakup of these figures as on 15th February, 2022.
All States/UTs have been directed to upload the data of all such children on the portal. NCPCR examines the data being filed on the portal and necessary communications are established with the district and State level authorities on regular basis. In compliance to the judgement of Supreme Court, NCPCR also files affidavits on regular basis to update the Hon’ble Court. The Commission has made certain recommendations for the State Government and the other relevant authorities to ensure the welfare and well-being of children.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, on 29th May, 2021, had announced comprehensive support for children who have lost both their parents due to COVID 19 pandemic.
The objective of the scheme is to ensure comprehensive care and protection of children who have lost their parent(s) to COVID pandemic, in a sustained manner, enable their wellbeing through health insurance, empower them through education and equip them for self-sufficient existence with financial support on reaching 23 years of age.
All eligible children can be enrolled till 28th February, 2022 to avail benefits of PM CARES for Children Scheme. The scheme covers all children who have lost: i) Both parents or ii) Surviving parent or iii) legal guardian/adoptive parents/single adoptive parent due to COVID 19 pandemic, starting from 11.03.2020 the date on which WHO has declared and characterized COVID-19 as pandemic till 28.02.2022. To be entitled to benefits under this scheme, the child should not have completed 18 years of age on the date of death of parents.
The PM CARES for children scheme inter-alia provides support to these children through convergent approach, gap funding for ensuring education, health, monthly stipend from the age of 18 years, and lump sum amount of Rs. 10 lakhs on attaining 23 years of age. So far, 4196 children have been identified and approved for obtaining the benefits of PM Cares for Children Scheme.