MP govt calls reduction in number of abandoned children ‘technical error’
The Madhya Pradesh government has called a 32% reduction in its data of abandoned children during the second wave of Covid-19 “a technical error”, after emerging as the state with the highest number of such recorded cases. A National Commission for Child Rights Protection (NCPCR) status report on orphans and abandoned children between April 2020 and June 2021, submitted to the Supreme Court, had pegged the number of abandoned children at 226, of a total of 274 recorded throughout the country. A month later, a similar status report, submitted on July 23, brought the number down to 153.
When NCPCR sought an explanation for the change in the data, officials of the Madhya Pradesh Women and Child Development Department said that this was due to a “technical mistake” in the submission of data in the Bal Swaraj portal.
NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said, “Due to a technical mistake and submission of data in haste, the department submitted incorrect data which they later rectified. But we are verifying the details of every child through a social investigation report. We are handling the case very sensitively.”
Madhya Pradesh Women and Child Development Department joint director Vishal Nadkarni admitted that they had asked for an “edit option” in the data as district child protection officers had entered incorrect details. “They included children in the age group 6 to 12 years who were found at different places and shifted to child care institutions, but they could be those who went missing rather than who were abandoned, so we rectified the data. We informed protection officers about the definition of abandoned children and 73 were found inappropriate for the category,” he added.
Child rights activists in Madhya Pradesh asked where the 73 children were. “The biggest question is that where are these 73 children. Are they still in shelter homes? Are the authorities sure that they are missing and have not been abandoned by parents? The woman and child department shouldn’t behave so irresponsibly because this matter is being monitored by the apex court,” said Prashant Dubey, a child rights activist.
Ashok Shah, Principal Secretary, WCD, said that it was “human error.” “The MP government has no intention to hide data. We are helping orphan kids and providing ₹6000 per month to them with free ration and free education. We are one of the leading states where more than a thousand children are being taken care of by the government under the Bal Sewa scheme,” he said.
Apart from abandoned children, Madhya Pradesh has also reported 885 orphaned children, second only to Gujarat with 947.