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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

32 children orphaned due to Covid in Delhi, finds child rights panel

Ten more children have been left without the care of a parent as they were living with a single parent, who has succumbed to the virus, and the surviving parent does not live with the children.

Written by Mallica Joshi | New Delhi |
Updated: May 30, 2021 9:52:40 am
Another focus has been to assess if the child will continue education. Since the survey is being done over the phone, the questions have to be short and pointed. (Representational)

A total of 32 children have been orphaned because of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic in Delhi, an assessment by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has shown.

Ten more children have been left without the care of a parent as they were living with a single parent, who has succumbed to the virus, and the surviving parent does not live with the children.

DCPCR chairperson, Anurag Kundu said they first came across such cases around a month ago. Many people had also posted stories of children losing both parents on social media. “So far, we have seen a total of 42 such cases. This includes children who lived with one parent, who has succumbed to the disease. For 42 children to have lost parents and be left without a support system is a big tragedy,” he said.

The commission had earlier set up a helpline number, +91-931155139, to help children in need. While the helpline is still in place, Kundu said: “The helpline system is crucial, but also flawed. It puts the onus of reporting a child in distress on people. We need to be more proactive. What we have done now is that we are contacting the kin of those who have died in the city so far. At least in records, there are close to 24,000 people who have died so far. The government has the data related to them and we can reach out to them.”

So far, over 1,700 calls have been made.

“We ask if the children are in need of essentials, medical help or counselling, or in continuing their education. So far, close to 10% people have told us that they would like for minors to be counselled so they are able to process the grief and trauma,” he said.

Another focus has been to assess if the child will continue education. Since the survey is being done over the phone, the questions have to be short and pointed.

“We are asking if a child is enrolled in school, and whether it is private or government. The second question, which tells us about the possibility that a child may drop out, is if the child will continue to remain in the same school. If the answer is no, there is a likelihood of a child dropping out since a school is also where one seeks solace in friends and teachers. Some people have told us the child will be shifted to a government school because of a lack of money. We are creating a database of children who will need closer monitoring,” he said.

The Delhi government had earlier said it will pay for the education of any child who has lost parents in the pandemic. The government will also give a stipend of Rs 2,500 per month to these children. The decision is in the final stages of approval, a senior Delhi government official told The Indian Express, and will likely be notified next week.

As per rules, Child Welfare Committees have to decide the guardianship of children, and if a child has to be put up for adoption, it has to happen through legal channels involving the Central Adoption Resource Authority. Social media has been flooded with calls for adoption of such children over the past month but experts warn the legal processes are crucial.

Those who want to help can also call 1098, the Childline number, which also alerts Child Welfare Committees.

The priority for child rights bodies is to keep the child with the extended family if it is suitable and safe for the child.

Institutional care has to be the option after exploring these avenues.

A thorough background check is to be done on the immediate family, in whose care the child is entrusted, which has to happen only through the intervention of the Child Welfare Committee.

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