The Supreme Court today came to the rescue of children orphaned during the COVID-19 lockdown, both national and state level, saying their basic needs must be taken care of by the state governments. It directed them to identify children who have lost their parents or the family breadwinner following the nationwide lockdown imposed in March 2020.
"Children in need must be taken care of...Understand their agony and address their needs immediately," a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose said today. It was hearing, suo motu, a case relating to Covid infection in child protection homes. Earlier, too, it had passed a series of orders on the matter.
"The Covid pandemic has created an unprecedented situation and has a cascading effect on vulnerable children. Authorities must identify children who were orphaned due to the pandemic or otherwise and take steps to address their basic needs," the bench said.
Amicus Curiae Gaurav Agrawal, assisting the court, had submitted a plea saying that a large number of children had been orphaned. He also cited media reports to suggest that illegal adoptions were taking place in the backdrop.
The bench today asked authorities to take care of needs like food, shelter, and clothing "without waiting for an official order from this court". It also asked the states to collate information on children who have been orphaned since March 2020, when the nationwide lockdown was imposed, and upload it on the portal of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights by tomorrow.
The court will now take up the case on June 1.
At least 577 children across the country were orphaned by COVID-19 between April 1 and May 25 alone, according to Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani who cited reports of states and Union Territories.
An AFP report dated May 19 said, "Thousands of children have lost one or both parents in the new pandemic wave ravaging India, where there were already millions of orphans."
India has lost over three lakh people to the pandemic, a large number of them during the second wave that set off earlier this year. This upsurge found the country's medical system so unprepared that scores of patients died simply due to a lack of resources, particularly oxygen.
Some states like Delhi and Kerala have by now announced plans to take care of the financial and other needs of many such children.