The Covid-19 pandemic, which has devastated families across the country, has orphaned over 1,700 children, led to 140 children being abandoned while more than 7,400 children lost one of their parents, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) told the Supreme Court in an affidavit submitted on Monday.
The NCPCR’s affidavit was filed in response to a query by the Supreme Court last week during a hearing a suo moto petition on the protection of children from Covid-19 in child care homes. A note presented to the top court by amicus curiae (friend of the court) Gaurav Agarwal highlighted the emerging problem of children orphaned during the pandemic and the urgent need to provide them food, ration, shelter and clothing.
In response, NCPCR counsel Swarupama Chaturvedi informed the court that the child rights body launched a web portal “Bal Swaraj” that allowed each district to upload information about children who were abandoned, orphaned or lost one parent during the pandemic. The court had directed all states to upload data beginning March 2020 by May 29 and allowed the NCPCR to file an affidavit in this regard.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose is expected to hear the matter on Tuesday.
As per the data collected by the NCPCR, beginning March 2020, a total of 1,742 children became orphans while 140 were abandoned. Children who lost either of their parents were 7,464. This data was uploaded on the web portal by 25 states and five union territories. This data alone adds up to 9,346. Among the states, Madhya Pradesh has reported 318 orphans, followed by Bihar (292) and Uttar Pradesh (270). The states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh reported more than 100 orphans during the period from March 2020 till May 29, 2021.
Explaining the purpose behind collecting the data, the NCPCR in its affidavit said, “The portal aims to track the children affected by COVID-19 right from the production of children before the Child Welfare Committee to the restoration of the children to their parent/ guardian/ relative and its subsequent follow-up.”
Once the data is uploaded by the respective district child protection officers, the commission tracks whether the children have received the entitled benefits and monetary support.
According to the data submitted by the NCPCR, Uttar Pradesh reported 2,110 children who were orphaned, lost one parent or were abandoned, followed by Bihar at 1,327 and Kerala at 952. Delhi reported two instances where children became orphans and three cases where they lost one parent adding up to five.
The Commission urged the court that the children who lost either of their parents to Covid-19 should also be provided with financial assistance. Amicus curiae Gaurav Agarwal has also filed a note where he has supported the suggestion of adding children who lost the earning member of the family as eligible for monetary assistance besides other welfare schemes.
“The financial assistance would ensure that the child continues his or her education while continuing to live in the same environment, which is essential for the mental health of the child, who is already trying to cope up with that loss of a parent,” the NCPCR stated in its affidavit filed through advocate Swarupama Chaturvedi.