COVID orphaned 10,600, says NCPCR

A view of the Supreme Court of India. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India. File

The Supreme Court is worried for children, some as young as six year old, whose parents suddenly died of COVID-19, leaving behind unpaid debts, mortgages, loans and insurance premiums.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has so far identified 1,47,773 children who have lost one parent and another 10,600 who have become orphans between April 1, 2020 and March 15, 2022 — the worst months of the pandemic.

A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao on Monday said it would examine the issue.

NCPCR has flagged the unsettled financial commitments as a major issue facing the children, who may yet not have come out of the trauma of losing their parents to the pandemic. Equally important is the fact that many of these children may have assets or property which would become vital sources of income to help them become financially independent and look after their education and needs.

To know the whole extent of the problem, the Commission suggested to the apex court, in an affidavit, that States should upload the details of the assets and liabilities on its Bal Swaraj portal, an NCPCR platform dedicated to identify and rehabilitate children affected by the pandemic.

The NCPCR has urged the court to direct district magistrates to “take steps regarding the financial liabilities like loans, mortgages, insurance premiums, etc, due on such children”.

Further, it said that “heads of lead banks should take up the issue with banks/ insurance companies under the supervision of the district magistrates. One of the basic problems would be operating bank accounts in case of orphans who have not been named nominees. The ready money available would be a great source of comfort for emotionally ragged children who suddenly feel stranded without their parents.

The Commission said the district magistrates could also “see” if the deceased parents have left behind any property and ensure that the property rights of the children are protected.

The Supreme Court’s amicus curiae, advocate Gaurav Agarwal, in a note, suggested that district authorities can rope in the District Legal Services Authorities (DLSA) to explore legal options and ensure that the properties of the deceased parents are protected and that the child is not deprived of the property.

“DLSA can also help in working out the modalities of settling the loans, mortgages, insurance premiums of children who have lost both parents or single parent during the pandemic,” Mr. Agarwal submitted.

The NCPCR further informed the court that it has, till date, identified 19,546 children in “street situation”. The court is examining the impact of the pandemic on homeless children and those living in slums without basic care and protection. the NCPCR, in its affidavit, said 10,401 children are living with their families on the streets. A “substantial number” of them, ie, 8,236, live in slums.

“They end up spending time on the streets during the day,” Mr. Agarwal referred to the NCPCR affidavit in his note to the Supreme Court. He suggested linking these children with neighbouring anganwadis, open shelters and enrolling them in schools with mid-day meal schemes.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2022 3:27:17 pm |