Sponsorship and foster care benefits to children under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) are a non-starter in Jharkhand though the state signed a memorandum of understanding with the Centre for the implementation of the scheme since its launch in 2009.
The central scheme aims at building a protective environment for “children in difficult circumstances, and other vulnerable children.” Sponsorship is a supplementary support to families to meet medical, nutritional, educational and other needs of their children to improve their quality of life.
The scheme provides for a monthly sponsorship of ₹2000 to “semi-orphaned, abandoned/destitute” children, who dropped out of schools because of financial and other socio-economic constraints, to continue with their studies, or gain health.
The central guideline requires such children to furnish income certificates to officials concerned to avail of the sponsorship and foster care benefits. Revenue circle officers are to issue certificates showing an annual income below ₹24,000 in rural areas, below ₹30,000 in urban areas, and under ₹36,000 in metro cities.
In seven years of the implementation of the scheme, not a single child in Jharkhand has benefited because of the Centre’s eligibility criteria and the state’s income certificate issuance rules.
In Jharkhand, income certificates below ₹72,000 per annum are not issued by revenue circle officers. The state norm deprives children of income certificates, a condition to avail of scheme benefits.
“Over 1000 children, identified in the state s by the Sponsorship and Foster Care Approval Committee (SFCAC), are denied ₹2000 monthly assistance though money received from the Centre under the scheme is parked in state coffers,” said Baijnath Kumar, a member of the Ranchi district foster care committee.
The state has engaged officials and staff in all the 24 districts to implement the scheme under a public-private partnership (PPP) mode, mandated under the central guideline.
Those rescued from trafficking, child labour, child marriage, and abuse, and abandoned children devoid of parental care were getting other benefits under the scheme, such as shelter, food, clothing, informal education, and vocational training, said Sevak Ram Lohra, Ranchi district child protection officer. “But the sponsorship and foster care benefit of ₹2000 per month is stuck due to legal wrangling,” he said.
“We have identified 48 children for sponsorship and 12 for foster care. We have stopped identifying such needy children as they are not getting sponsorship benefit,” Lohra said.
“We have written to the ministry of women and child development to relax the income certificate issuance norms. We are yet to receive government guideline pertaining to issue of income certificates below ₹72,000 for implementation of the Centre’s enabling scheme for poor, hapless children,” he said.
A circle officer (CO) in Ranchi district said, “We don’t issue income certificates below ₹72,000. Income certificates below that are made in special circumstances; the applicant has to prove that due to ailments and other incapacitations his or her income is less than that.”