Over 3,000 orphaned, 26,000 lost a parent since April ’20: Panel

Between April 1 last year and June 5 this year — a period that saw the country battling two waves of Covid-19 — 3,621 children were orphaned, 26,176 lost either parent and 274 were abandoned, the National Commission for Child Rights (NCPCR) said in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court.

The Commission, however, clarified that the deaths of parents, as reflected in its affidavit, were not just related to Covid-19 and could be due to other reasons too.

Of the 30,071 children who the Commission said are in “need of care and protection”, 15,620 are boys, 14,447 girls and four are transgenders.

The major chunk — 11,815 children — are in the 8-13 age group, followed by 5,107 children in the 4-7 age group.

The figures were uploaded by states and Union Territories on the NCPCR’s ‘Bal Swaraj’ portal following a recent order by the top court.

The state-wise breakup shows Maharashtra with 7,084 children “in need of care and protection”. Uttar Pradesh is second with 3,172 affected children and Rajasthan with 2,482. Other states with more than 2,000 affected children are Haryana (2,438), Madhya Pradesh (2,243) and Kerala (2,002).

On May 28, the court, while hearing a suo motu case on the welfare of children in protection homes in the wake of the Covid-19, had asked states and UTs to upload data on the number of children affected since March 2020. Accordingly, the Commission had on May 31 filed an affidavit in the court with data received until May 29. This is the second affidavit in the matter with revised figures.

On Monday, the SC pulled up West Bengal and Delhi after Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj, appearing for the Commission, told the bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Anirudha Bose that the two states were not uploading details on the portal.

“You have seen the order passed by us…We said gather information pertaining to children orphaned post March 2020, and upload details. All the other States have understood it properly and have uploaded the information. How is it that only West Bengal doesn’t understand the order,” the Bench asked the state counsel.

Advocate Chirag Shroff, appearing for the Delhi government, said that it was solely dependent on data provided by Child Welfare Committees unlike other states, where the departments directly provided data to District Magistrates, thus making the information more comprehensive.

The Bench responded that there are States which have constituted district task forces with officers from the revenue department, the District Collector and others and that Delhi can do so too.

The Commission also urged the court to direct all states/UTs to not place in public domain or provide to any person/ entity/ organisation any confidential information about the children that would make them susceptible to trafficking, abuse, illegal adoption etc.

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