Saranya (only first name identified) lost both her parents to Covid less than two weeks ago in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. The 11-year-old is among hundreds of children to have been orphaned in this pandemic across the country.
Besides the loss of financial security, her condition also involves coping with emotional trauma and deep anxiety. Earlier this week, Saranya was handed over a fixed deposit bond of Rs 10 lakh by the East Godavari District Collector.
The Andhra Pradesh government has further identified up to 34 children like her and a similar amount has been set aside for each of them.
"It is heartbreaking that Covid has left many children orphaned. We will deposit Rs 10 lakh in their bank account. They will get a monthly interest of about Rs 5,000. When the child turns 25, they can take the Rs 10 lakh," Andhra Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy said yesterday in the state assembly.
In less than two months of the deadly second Covid wave alone, at least 577 children have lost both parents, the Centre has said. Other reports put the figure at thousands for the period since the pandemic hit India in January 2020.
"In Delhi 5,500 children have lost at least one parent. We have been able to track 40 children who have lost both parents as of May 26," Anurag Kundu, Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), told NDTV.
"The numbers could be much higher in other states. The government has been able to document 577 children orphaned. That's a great start, but it appears to be a case of under reporting," Mr Kundu said.
Earlier this month, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a compensation of Rs 2,500 per month until the age of 25 for such children. He also said the cost of their education will be borne by the state government.
Kerala has identified nine such children, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announcing a special package of Rs 3,00,000 as immediate relief for them, along with a monthly sum of Rs 2,000 each till they turn 18. Their educational expenses, too, shall be covered by the state till graduation.
Financial security aside, such children are also suddenly thrown into emotional turmoil, which could have both short- and long-term impacts.
"Children who have lost both their parents due to covid often experience depression and anxiety," said Dr Rajiv Mehta, a psychiatrist at Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told NDTV.
In the second wave, especially, most deaths have been in the 30-to-50 years age group, stealing the minors' financial and emotional cocoon. These children desperately need help to cope and move forward, Dr Mehta said.
The Supreme Court today came to their rescue, saying their basic needs must be taken care of by the state governments.
(With inputs from Uma Sudhir)