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In deluge of Covid numbers, one stands out: 577 children orphaned in second wave of pandemic

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Women and Child Development said that 577 children across the country have been orphaned in the past 55 days by the second wave.

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: May 29, 2021 4:09:13 pm
Inside the classroom of a school turned into a Covid care centre in Mumbai. (Reuters)

Of all the Covid numbers swirling in the air, this one doesn’t amount to much. And yet, it will make you pause.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Women and Child Development said that 577 children across the country have been orphaned in the past 55 days by the second wave.

According to senior officials, the Ministry began investigating the issue of Covid orphans after messages for adopting them started flooding social media. “We have been in touch with all states and asked them to identify Covid orphans from their districts. We have ascertained, from the data received, that there are currently 577 of them… Delhi, for instance, has one Covid orphan in this period,” an official said.

The officials did not reveal a state-wise break-up but said that several did not report even one case.

Taking to Twitter, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani wrote that the Government 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,” Irani posted.

“We have allotted Rs 10 lakh per district for the non-institutional care of these orphans, which will be distributed by District Magistrates under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme. Our aim is that not even one child slips through the cracks. Our priority, however, is that the children be retained in their family and community structures and not plucked from these set-ups,” a senior official said.

The Ministry’s count comes at a time when several states have announced welfare measures for children orphaned by the pandemic. Delhi, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh are among those that have promised free education apart from financial assistance, while others like Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have announced various welfare schemes.

Officials said that a number of measures have been taken to track these children – from welfare committees in districts to Samvad, an integrated programme for child and adolescent psychosocial care in collaboration with NIMHANS.

On May 17, the Ministry issued a public notice warning against messages being circulated on social media for the adoption of these children. “There were concerns that this could lead to child trafficking. We have carried out investigations into a large number of these messages and have found all of them, so far, to be fake. These have been handed over to the state police departments who will continue this investigation along with the cyber cells,’’ said an official.

The Ministry had earlier written to states asking them to monitor such activity and ensure that these children be produced before District Child Welfare Committees. For cases that the CWC sees fit for adoption, the process is to take place through the Central Adoption Resource Agency.

In a public notice, the Ministry said that further information can also be shared on the child helpline – 1098.

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