The Centre has told the Delhi high court that it is taking all steps to safeguard the best interest of the children affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and has written to state and Union Territories (UTs) for immediate rehabilitation of the orphaned children.
In an affidavit filed on behalf of Ministry of Woman and Child Development on a PIL raising concerns over the children orphaned due to COVID-19, the Centre has asserted that it is constantly engaging with states to discuss the scope and possibility of strengthening the child protection set up during the pandemic.
Information about any child who has been orphaned due to COVID-19 may be shared with l098, it submitted.
D.O. letter dated 30.04.2021 by Secretary, MWCD (was sent) to Chief Secretaries with a request to direct DM in all the districts to ensure immediate action for rehabilitation of COVID orphaned children. Information about child may be shared with childline l098 , the affidavit reads.
The Centre has submitted that children in distress are mandated care and protection under the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act) which has to be implemented by the State governments and UTs administrations.
A centrally sponsored scheme called Child Protection Services is already being implemented to provide financial support to State governments/ UT administrations for delivering services under the JJ Act, it said.
The Centre has further stated that to support the psychosocial and mental health of children impacted of the pandemic, a national initiative called SAMVAD – Support, Advocacy & Mental health interventions for children in Vulnerable circumstances And Distress has also been launched along with a 24X7 childline for emergency outreach.
While the ministry had prominently displayed an advisory on its website and is generating awareness through social media on protection of children who have lost their parents to COVID, the state governments have also been requested to issue public notice in local languages to guide public regarding lawful course of action in case of orphaned children, the affidavit said.
A request was also made to state governments to designate one child care institution in each district to support children whose parents are affected with COVID and a column was asked to be added in hospitalisation forms seeking name of the person to whom a minor child is to be given in case of death of the parents, the Centre has said.
The PIL by Jeetender Gupta, an advocate on record in the Supreme Court, has sought directions to the authorities to provide the interim custody of orphaned children to their nearest relatives or child-care homes while protecting their identity.
Apprehending the risk of trafficking, Gupta has also sought directions to the authorities to explore the options for legal adoptions after proper scrutiny of the details of those who have expressed an interest to adopt the children impacted by the pandemic.
Source : PTI