Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 29, 2021, announced a number of benefits to children impacted by the current Covid-19 pandemic. He said that all the children who have lost both their parents or surviving parent or legal guardian/adoptive parents due to Covid 19 would be supported under the ‘PM-CARES for Children’ scheme. These schemes cover health, education, and more and are in favour of orphans and children who need care and protection (CNCPs).
In response to this, the State Governments had appointed Nodal Officers to ascertain the information relating to the implementation of the schemes. Moreover, they also needed to provide information to National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) regarding the assistance and support being provided to such affected children.
However, NCPCR took certain matters to the attention of the Supreme Court regarding the identification of such affected children on social media, inconsistencies in the provision of information, education of such children, and more.
According to the ‘Bal Swaraj’ portal, as of June 5, 2021, 30,071 children have become orphans or have lost one parent or been abandoned.
A six-stage plan was also proposed to improve the situation of such children – identification of such children, immediate relief, inquiries by Child Welfare Committees (CWC), monitoring of children by CWC and the District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) should be conducted on a periodical basis, and ensuring that benefits reach children.
**Provision of Information to NCPCR website**
States and UTs were asked to provide information on how they were providing support and assistance to the affected children to be updated on the website of NCPCR. However, it was found that West Bengal and Delhi had not uploaded the correct information.
After the court’s intervention, the respective governments have agreed to comply with the orders and provide correct information.
NCPCR Chairperson, Priyank Kanoongo told PBNS the major challenge is that such children are identified and the information reaches us without being misused. He further added that what the NCPCR fears is that the children whose information has not been furnished or collected by the States will remain deprived of the benefits of the schemes meant for them.
*Education of the Child**
The continuation of education of affected children was a major concern, regarding which the apex court has said that if affected children are studying in government schools, then they should be permitted to continue their education. It also asked the State Governments/Union Territories to take steps for the continuance of education of such children studying in private schools for at least six months by which time some arrangement can be worked out.
The aim is to ensure that there is no break in the education of children who have become orphans or lost either one parent during the Pandemic.
Further, the Court will take up matters like protection of property rights of the children, further education of the children including employment opportunities, special care to be taken in respect of the girl child in the next hearing.
** NGOs collecting funds by illegal means**
It was brought to the attention of the Supreme Court that certain NGOs have been collecting funds in the names of the affected children. The Court has directed State/UTs to prevent any NGO from collecting funds disclosing the identity of such children. It said that actions would be taken against such NGOs.
**Role of Social media**
Advertisements regarding the adoption of such children where their identity has been revealed are in circulation on Social media.
Priyank Kanoongo said that NCPCR has issued notice to social media platforms to furnish their social media compliance report within 7 days. He said that misinformation spreads very easily on social media and that they should responsibly do their duty.
Strict action against such NGOs and social media platforms will be taken if they are found engaging in misleading information, he added.
** Role of Society**
The NCPCR Chairperson said that society has to effectively shoulder its responsibility towards the children who need their care and protection as the role of the government is to provide assistance, support, and direction, but the children will have to live in the society itself.
He added that there have also been reports where the relatives of such children have been assisting for mental, emotional, and financial support. “Protection of children is the only way to stop crimes against them,” Priyank Kanoongo said.