Punjab govt kicks off drive to locate kids who lost both parents to Covid

Punjab govt kicks off drive to locate kids who lost both parents to Covid

With Punjab continuing to witness the highest Covid case fatality rate (CFR) in the country with an overall toll of over 12,500 till now, the state’s child rights panel and district child protection units have intensified the drive to find children who have been orphaned after losing both parents to Covid and were reportedly being adopted by relatives/friends illegally.

Apprehending that such children might be pushed into illegal activities like human trafficking, the district child protection units have installed posters across Punjab asking people to inform them about such children who are in need of help.

One such poster installed in district Fatehgarh Sahib by district child protection unit reads: “For the protection of children during the pandemic and to protect vulnerable children during the lockdown that has been imposed due to Covid, please inform the officials of department of Social Security & Child and Women Development about any such children who have:

1) Lost both parents to Covid-19 and now there is none to take care of them

2) Children who need help during lockdown

3) Any vulnerable child who needs protection

Meanwhile, a letter to the Punjab education secretary by the chairman, Punjab State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, says that with an apprehension that the third Covid wave might impact more children, teachers should start spreading awareness among students regarding Covid-appropriate behaviour and should also encourage their parents to get vaccinated.

Child rights panel chairman Rajinder Singh’s letter said: “…Commission has got to know that children who have lost both parents to Covid are being adopted illegally, such children might also be pushed into illegal activities, keeping this in view all teachers in schools should be ordered to prepare a list of such children.”

The letter further says that in each school, a teacher must be appointed nodal officer for preparing a list of children who have lost both parents to Covid and keep in constant touch with them. Further, the list has to be shared with district child protection officers (DCPO) and child welfare committees (CWCs) and if the teacher feels that child is not in safe hands, he/she should immediately sound child protection units. All teachers must be provided with numbers of their district’s child protection officers immediately, the letter says. Children should also be informed about child helpline number ‘1098’ on which they can call anytime, it further says.

Rajwinder Singh, deputy director of the commission, said that till now no such case has come to the notice of the panel but the search has been intensified. “We have installed posters in all districts and a letter has been written to the education secretary asking for a list of such children from teachers in all schools. Mostly it is teachers who can get to know about such children before anyone else,” he said.

CM announces relief for children orphaned due to Covid

Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said that beginning July 1, the Punjab government will provide Rs 1,500 per month as social security pension, along with free education up to graduation (in government instutitions), for all those children orphaned in the Covid pandemic, as well as to the families that have lost their breadwinning member.

Affected persons would also be eligible for grant of Rs 51,000 under Ashirwad Scheme w.e.f. July 1, and would be entitled to free ration under the State Smart Ration Card Scheme and coverage under the Sarbat Sehat Bima Yojana. The state government would also assist the affected family members to find a suitable job under Ghar Ghar Rozgaar te Karobaar Mission, said the CM.

The relief measures will be provided to orphans until they attain the age of 21 years. In the case of families whose breadwinner has died, these would be provided for an initial period of three years, after which their situation will be re-assessed, and where the vulnerability continues to exist, the period may be appropriately increased.

The CM also announced the constitution of a monitoring committee, headed by the Minister for Social Security & Women and Child Development, to review progress and relief measures for every single case. The committee shall meet at least once a month.

The Department of Social Security & Women and Child Development would be the Nodal Department for implementation of the relief measures for the Covid affected persons. The committee would also maintain a record of all such affected persons and apprise them about the welfare measures being offered to them. The committee would also coordinate with concerned departments until the desired relief has been made available.

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