Bal Swaraj, an online tracking portal of a national child rights body, shows details of nearly 10,000 children in the country in immediate need of care and protection. They include children aged between zero and 17 orphaned or abandoned during the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) informed the Supreme Court that these children ran a high risk of being pushed into trafficking and flesh trade. The Commission said it had already received several complaints of government authorities illegally transferring details of children to private entities and NGOs.
A Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose is suo motu examining ways to protect children who have suffered personal losses and trauma caused by the pandemic.
“The cataclysmic COVID-19 pandemic devastated the vulnerable sections of society… there are a number of children who have become orphans due to the demise of either the breadwinner of the family or of both their parents,” the court’s amicus curiae , advocate Gaurav Agrawal, said.
On May 28, the Bench had directed the Centre to state welfare measures for children orphaned by the pandemic. The NCPCR, represented by advocate Swarupama Chaturvedi, and States were asked to compile data identifying children in need of immediate care. District authorities were asked to immediately cater to the basic needs of food, shelter and clothes to orphaned and abandoned children. “The district authorities are directed to upload the information of children who have become orphans after March, 2020 on the portal “Bal Swaraj” before tomorrow evening [May 29],” the Bench had ordered.
The NCPCR’s Bal Swaraj records the details of 9,346 children who are in need of care and protection as of May 29. Of this, children who have lost either parent are 7,464, those who have been orphaned and abandoned are 1,742 and 140, respectively. The portal shows that children aged between eight and 13 form the highest age bracket who are in dire need of help. There are 3,711 of them.
The NCPCR affidavit also provided Statewise data on the total number of children orphaned, abandoned or having lost a parent since March 2020 when the pandemic first hit the country. Interestingly, West Bengal authorities have provided the details of only one child while Delhi has listed only five children on the NCPCR portal as of May 29.
District authorities of Uttar Pradesh have listed 2,110 children orphaned, abandoned or lost a parent. Tamil Nadu lists 159 children, Kerala 952, Bihar 1,327, Maharashtra 796, Karnataka 36, Andhra 116, Haryana 776, Jammu and Kashmir 375 and Gujarat 434, among other States as of May 29.
The NCPCR said the uploading of data on the Bal Swaraj portal was an ongoing process.