In recent developments, the Supreme Court has taken a strong stand for the protection of orphaned children during the pandemic. The court directed the states and the union territories to fasten the pace of identifying orphaned children and has directed the states and the centre on the welfare and education of orphaned children after march 2020.
The court has asked the district magistrate officers to instruct the child welfare officers to take the aid of “the Police, DCPU, Civil Society Organisations, Gram panchayats, Anganwadi and Asha networks for the identification of orphans”.
The states and union territories have been asked to file status reports on the number of children who have become orphans or have lost one parent, the number of children produced before the Child Welfare Committee, and those provided with benefits by state government schemes.
Commenting on the education of the orphans, the apex court has said that the state governments are to ensure that orphans continue in their current school for at least the current academic year, be it private and public schools. In case of difficulty in continuing with private institutions, the child is to be accommodated into another suitable school under the RTE act. The state is required to provide information on the same.
In another instance, the SC made an oral observation that the relief and welfare schemes provided by the central like the PM CARES fund should include relief for children orphaned not only due to Covid but also during covid.
“The order that we passed covers all children who became orphans during this period and not just due to deaths due to COVID”, said Justice Nagaeswara Rao, who headed the bench. The bench had observed that the scheme provided 10 lakh Rupees as compensation by the time the child turns 23-years old is covering only those children who lost parent/s due to Covid.
The West Bengal Government was rebuked by the SC for stating that there exist only 27 identified orphans due to Covid.