Nearly 30,000 children affected by pandemic, says NCPCR’s latest affidavit in Supreme Court
Children in more than 30,000 families were abandoned, became orphans or lost one of their parents between April 2020 and last week. The latest data submitted to the Supreme Court by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is by far the most comprehensive estimate provided by states on the status of children affected during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The figures were uploaded by the respective States and Union Territories on the NCPCR website “Bal Swaraj”. The Commission in an affidavit filed before the top court added a disclaimer stating that the reason for death of parent(s) could be any and not just Covid-19.
The affidavit of the NCPCR filed through advocate Swarupama Chaturvedi on Sunday said, “The Commission is presenting the number of children who have lost either their mother or father or both parents from April 1, 2020 to June 5, 2021, based upon the information uploaded on “Bal Swaraj” portal up to 5th June 2021.” The reason of death was not uploaded by the States/UTs giving rise to a possibility of the death of parent(s) being for reasons other than Covid-19.
The latest data shows that among 30,071 children affected during the pandemic, 3,621 lost both parents, a significantly high number of 26,176 lost either parent while 274 were left abandoned. Of the affected children, there are 15,620 boys, 14,447 girls and four transgenders. The Commission even categorized the data into age-wise brackets. This showed that more than 11,800 children are in the age group of 8 to 13 years and between 14-18 years, about 10,247.
This is the second affidavit filed by the Commission in response to a query put by the top court on the number of children affected due to the pandemic. The possibility of significantly high number of orphans during the pandemic and an urgent need to cater to their care and protection was raised by amicus curiae advocate Gaurav Agrawal, assisting the Court in a suo moto petition on steps to contain spread of Covid-19 in child care homes. The earlier affidavit filed by NCPCR on May 31 did not contain complete figures of children affected during Covid-19 as many states faced technical challenges to upload data on the “Bal Swaraj” portal.
The matter is fixed for hearing on Monday before a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose. Along with the affidavit of NCPCR, a note was prepared by Agrawal focusing on 10 states with regard to identification mechanism of children affected by Covid-19 and steps taken to provide them care under various Central and state schemes. These 10 states are Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar and Jharkhand.
Agrawal has also made suggestions on protecting the property rights of orphans/children. His note stated, “A large number of children have lost their fathers, who were the earning member of the families. In some cases, there is absolutely no income, no insurance benefits and no property with the widow.” Agrawal suggested that when orphans or children in need of care and protection (CNCP) are produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), it could assess the financial capacity of family or guardian and award an amount of ₹5000 per child as financial assistance. Some states have already announced special financial schemes for such children, Agrawal added.
As per data of NCPCR, most among the affected 30,000 odd children are either at their homes with the single parent, guardian or family member with only 819 in Children’s Home (including observation homes and shelter homes), 41 in orphanages, and 62 with special adoption agencies.
Among the states, Maharashtra recorded the highest number with 217 children orphaned and over 6800 children losing either parent. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan recorded very high number of orphans at 706 and 671 respectively. The NCPCR affidavit has requested the Court to direct states and UTs not to share names or information about children in public domain or provide it to any person/ entity/ organization making these children susceptible to trafficking, abuse, illegal adoption etc.