Updated: June 4, 2021 2:15:04 pm
The Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has written to state governments laying down guidelines on how children, orphaned by Covid-19, must be handled.
In a letter to Chief Secretaries on Thursday, WCD Secretary Ram Manohar Mishra listed safeguards to ensure children who have lost both parents to the disease are not exploited financially. This includes a stricture that prevents the sale of the child’s ancestral property, and ensuring financial support the child will receive through grants announced by various states, as well as through the PM CARES Fund, are not to be adjusted against pending debts or other liabilities of the parents, but to be strictly used only for the child’s education, expenditure and welfare.
To ensure the child’s ancestral or parental property is not sold off, the District Magistrate (DM) is to maintain “proper oversight” of records maintained by the Registration or Revenue Department.
Mishra further said the care and protection of children adversely affected by Covid-19 must follow protocol as mandated under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
The ministry said that to ensure the best interest of the children during the pandemic, there is a need for resource mapping along with careful planning to “foster access to resources needed for their individual needs”. The ministry has deemed that the DM will be the guardian of vulnerable children impacted adversely by Covid-19.
“All concerned government departments and other stakeholders at all levels must be activated to guarantee convergent efforts in the best interest of the child in distress. It may be ensured that none of the vulnerable children slip through the safety net,” Mishra said in his letter.
For this, such children are to be identified through outreach and surveys, and databases with the profile of each child, along with the details of their specific needs and requirements, are to be created. The database is to be kept secure and confidential, as prescribed under the JJ Act. This data is also to be uploaded on Track Child Portal of Government of India.
States are to publicise contact details of Child Welfare Committees and Childline (1098) at hospital receptions and other prominent places. The state police is to be alerted to track and monitor the evolving situation carefully, to prevent crimes against children including child labour, child marriage, trafficking and illegal adoptions. A database of children at risk is to be maintained to ensure follow-up and regular monitoring.
Hospitals will be instructed to identify one “trustworthy person” of Covid patients to be contacted for caring for their child in case of an eventuality. Adequate provisions for pediatric and neo-natal care may be ensured in every district.
Immediate temporary rehabilitation of children through the existing child care facilities supported under Child Protection Services scheme must be ensured. DMs are also to ensure quality care at Child Care Institutions (CCI).
CCI’s are to make arrangements for isolation facilities for children who may have Covid, and create a roaster of child psychologist or counsellors, apart from having a local helpline manned by child psychologists.
The DM, who will be the local guardian, will ensure the orphaned child is restored to the extended family, and in cases where the Child Welfare Committees rule for adoption, this be done through the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).
The Ministry has instructed states to create a district-level multi-departmental taskforce to map the needs, monitor progress and ensure all benefits reach affected children. All panchayats as well as civil society organisations are to inform CWCs or District Child Protection Units about any vulnerable child in the district.
Children whose parents have been unwell due to Covid are also to be temporarily shifted to CCIs in case the families are unable to look after them.
With fears of possible child trafficking, the ministry has alerted the state police to trace offers for child adoption on social media, which is deemed illegal, and take action against the perpetrators.
DMs are to organise orientation and sensitisation of Urban Local Bodies and Panchayati Raj Institutions, and inform them regarding measures being taken and schemes announced for such children. They are to ensure that all the orphan children are provided free education through government day schools or residential schools, and based on specific need of the child, he/she can also be enrolled in the nearest private schools under RTE Section 12(1)(c). Eligible orphaned children are to be included under existing scholarship schemes.
“Vocational training, wherever required, may be provided under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY). Health Insurance may be secured for eligible children under PM Jan Arogya Yojana scheme of Government of India, as per the scheme guidelines,” the letter reads.
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