On May 7th, Money9 wrote an editorial on the need for the state to take responsibility of Covid orphans – children who lost both parents to the pandemic. On May 29th, Prime Minister announced the ‘PM Cares for Children’ initiative. It will ensure free education to these children, health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh under Ayushman Bharat till they turn 18, a corpus of Rs 10 lakh for each child at 18 years, and higher education loan opportunities for which the fund will bear the cost of interest. On reaching the age of 23 years, he or she will get the corpus amount as one lump-sum for personal and professional use.
State Chief Ministers have also acted in tandem.
Ahead of the PM’s Tweet, Maharashtra CM Udhav Thackeray asked for its department of Women & Child Development to draft a proposal for its 114 covid orphans as well as the 2,000 plus children who lost a single parent. On May 17th, Odisha had announced free education for Covid orphans out of the state’s budget.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, soon after the PM’s announcement, announced a grant of Rs 2,500 per orphan per month, an additional Rs 12,000 per annum for other expenses, and a deposit of Rs 1,500 per month till the age of 18. Additionally, for girl children, free education at state-run aanganwadis and a promise of Rs 51,000 with interest accrued over the years will be handed over to them at the time of their marriages.
Other than the marriage grant that may arguably lead to other social ills, these are all great measures in government files, press releases, news reports, and Twitter posts. The challenge will be implementation. Strict record-keeping, frequent cross-referencing, and ensuring a non-negotiable, zero pilferage plugging of loopholes will need to be put in place. Covid orphans need to be given the life of dignity, quality education, nutritious upbringing, and warm care that they deserve.
‘Care’ should mean a lot more than a monetary dole for these children. Their accommodation, healthcare, and social environment should reflect the best India can offer. Their mental health needs special attention at this difficult juncture too. Covid orphans are India’s children. They are too precious to be lost to a life of destitute.
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