July 23, 2021 2:25:46 am
Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani on Thursday informed Rajya Sabha that 645 children have been orphaned in the country between April and May 28 this year during the second wave of Covid-19.
In a written response, Irani stated that this information is based on data provided by states and Union Territories of children who have lost both or either of their parents to Covid 19, or “for any reason between April 2021 and May 28, 2021”.
In May, Irani had said that 577 children across the country had been orphaned during the second wave of the pandemic.
Senior officials had said that the ministry had begun investigating the issue of Covid-19 orphans after messages for adopting these children started emerging on social media. Officials said that the ministry was in touch with all states and UTs and had asked them to identify Covid-19 orphans from their districts.
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The ministry had said its attempt would be keep these children in a familiar environment, ideally with their extended families.
According to data presented by the ministry on Thursday, Uttar Pradesh saw 158 children being orphaned in this period — the highest among states and UTs. Other states with a large number of orphans in this period are Andhra Pradesh (119), Maharashtra (83), Madhya Pradesh (73), and Gujarat (45).
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chandigarh, Goa, Haryana, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura have had no orphans — from Covid or otherwise — during this period, as per the data presented in the Upper House.
Manipur, Meghalaya and Delhi reported one orphan each.
Various state governments as well as the Centre have been addressing the issue of how to handle Covid-19 orphans, with governments announcing various grants and schemes, including stipends, free education, books, uniforms and escrow accounts for these children.
On May 29, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that all children who have lost both parents, the surviving parent, legal guardians or adoptive parents to Covid-19 will be supported under the “PM-CARES for Children’s scheme”. The assistance for these children will come in the form of fixed deposits, free education and health insurance, he said.
The WCD Ministry also issued directives that an orphan’s ancestral property could not be sold by members of her/his extended family, or by anyone else, until the child reaches maturity, ensuring physical and financial security for the child.
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