The Supreme Court Friday has taken attention towards the children orphaned during the second wave of the pandemic at both national and state level and has directed the state governments to provide them immediate relief. It has also asked them to identify children who have lost their parents or family breadwinner following the nationwide lockdown imposed in March 2020.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose while hearing a suo motu, a case regarding Covid infection in child protection homes said, "Children in need must be taken care of...Understand their agony and address their needs immediately.”
"The Covid pandemic has created an unprecedented situation and has a cascading effect on vulnerable children. Authorities must identify children who were orphaned due to the pandemic or otherwise and take steps to address their basic needs," the bench noted.
The apex court's direction came on an application submitted by amicus curiae Gaurav Agarwal saying a large number of children have been orphaned during the pandemic, citing media reports suggesting that illegal adoptions are taking place in the backdrop. He sought that state governments must step in to identify orphaned children and provide them immediate relief by the state governments.
The bench today directed authorities to take care of needs like food, shelter, and clothing "without waiting for an official order from this court".
"We have read somewhere that in Maharashtra over 2,900 children have lost their one or both parents due to COVID-19. We don't have an exact number of such children. We cannot even imagine how many such children in this large country have got orphaned due to this devastating pandemic," the bench said.
Further, the court has asked the states to collect information on children who have been orphaned since 2020, when a nationwide lockdown was imposed and upload it on the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights portal by tomorrow.
The matter will be heard again on June 1.
According to Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani who cited reports of states and Union Territories, at least 577 children across the country were orphaned by COVID-19 between April 1 and May 25 alone.
States like Delhi and Kerala have already announced plans to provide financial aid, free education and other support to such children. Arvind Kejriwal has announced to provide free education up until they become adults while giving them free rations. On the other hand, Kerala on Thursday said that under a special package an amount of Rs 3 lakhs will be given to the children as a lump sum. In addition, an amount of Rs 2,000 per month will also be given till they reach the age of 18.