Covid: SC seeks Centre's response on orphan data discrepancy
The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought an explanation from the Centre on the glaring discrepancy between the figures furnished by the Union government and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on the children orphaned in the country because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose told additional solicitor-general Aishwarya Bhati that while the reply filed by the Centre said it has extended financial and rehabilitation assistance to support 645 orphaned children, the data submitted by the NCPCR said 6,855 kids lost their parents from March 2020 to July 2021.
Bhati sought time to take instructions from the government on the vast variation in the figures submitted by the Centre and the statutory commission.
The court was dealing suo motu on the conditions of children in remand homes because of the pandemic.
The bench clarified that its earlier directive in May for providing necessary succour and rehabilitation to orphaned children was not confined to those who lost their parents because of Covid but included those orphaned because of other reasons.
Justice Rao pointed out that the PM-CARES Fund provided Rs 10 lakh to each child orphaned during the Covid pandemic to be used till he or she turned 23 but the scheme covered only a few children.
Such welfare measures should cover even other children orphaned because of circumstances not relating to Covid, the bench said.
“We cannot restrict the orders passed only to orphans who lost both parents to Covid-19,” Justice Rao said.
When Bhati said the PM-CARES Fund covers only those children who lost both their parents to the pandemic, the bench clarified that it was not asking the government to extend the relief under the scheme to other orphans. Instead, the court said, it wanted the government to explore the possibility of extending benefits to such orphans from other schemes meant for children.
“We want to clarify that we are not on PM-CARES Fund today. You can take instructions but we are clarifying we are not asking you to extend. You can explore the other schemes you have. Please see those are implemented,” the bench said.
The bench noted that many schemes were only on paper and were not being implemented for the benefit of children.
“We have constantly been speaking about implementation of the schemes. There is announcement of the scheme but it has to reach the children. We have child welfare centres, district child protection officers, but looking at these numbers, they might need some assistance,” the bench said.
Justice Rao said the court was of the view that if the kids were produced before the respective district child welfare committees, at least their immediate needs could be taken care of.
The court said there had been instances where many kids sent back home to decongest the child care centres had desperately been calling the officials to say that they have nothing to eat and want to come back.
On June 8, the top court had directed the Centre, states and Union Territories to take “stringent action” against those resorting to illegal adoption of children orphaned or abandoned on account of Covid.
The bench had passed the directives after being informed by advocate Shobha Gupta appearing for an NGO that a large number of children are being illegally adopted by various other NGOs and individuals.