The pandemic blow to children in Odisha seems very acute. Even as the Odisha government has officially admitted that only 10 children were orphaned by the SARS-CoV2, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the child rights protection body, NCPCR (National Commission For Protection Of Child Rights), said a whopping 6,562 children in the State had lost one of their parents between April 1, 2020 and July 23, 2021.
As per NCPCR's state-wise data submitted to the Apex Court, Maharashtra, where a total of 13,589 children are found to be affected by the pandemic, topped the table. Odisha finished second in the country and is followed by Andhra Pradesh. The affidavit says a massive 75,000 kids in the country have lost atleast one of their parents during the pandemic period of April 2020 to July 23, 2021. The data has been uploaded by states in the Bal Swaraj portal.
Meanwhile, recently, in Parliament, the Ministry of Women and Child Development had stated that a total of 645 children across the states were orphaned in the second wave after losing both of their parents in April - May. The data laid on the tables in Parliament had also put the number of orphaned children in Odisha at 10.
In contrast, the NCPCR data talks about children in the country orphaned, or lost at least one parent or were abandoned during the entire pandemic period - April 2020 - July 23, 2021. The Parliament data tells about children orphaned during Apr-May 2021.
A Number Game?
Which of the two numbers is correct? Are there any loopholes in reporting the children affected by Covid-19 in the country?
It seems the country's Apex Court also has no faith in the government numbers. During the hearing on the matter on Tuesday, the Supreme Court has made an observation that puts the glare on a loophole in reporting orphaned children by the states.
"Don't rely on the data submitted by District Child Welfare Committees," the court observed and asked the Punjab government to collect data from the grassroots level. The top court has also refused to accept West Bengal's data on children impacted by Covid-19. West Bengal had said only 27 children had lost atleast one parent due to Covid-19.
It needs mentioning here that the data submitted by the Odisha government to the Centre is also based on the report prepared by District Child Welfare Committees. However, the State has uploaded the grassroots data on the Bal Swaraj portal of NCPCR. And the same has been filed in an affidavit to the Apex Court by the NCPCR.
Lancet Quotes A Bigger Number
As per a Lancet study, the rapid increase in COVID-19-associated deaths in India from February to April 2021, was associated with an 8·5-times increase in the number of children orphaned or losing caregivers in April, where the study observed that 43,139 more children were orphaned than the March total. In contrast, March saw 5091 children orphaned over that of the February total.
It says, " As per our estimation, a total of 1.16 lakh children in India had either lost mother, father or both between March 2020 - April 2021."
While the country's top court has asked the states and the Centre to present a detailed report on rehabilitating the pandemic affected children, Odisha has recently announced a scheme called 'Ashirbad' for the Covid-19 orphaned. As per the State government release, as of date, only 10-children are eligible to avail of the benefits of the scheme.
But Supreme Court has asked all the states to submit rehab plans for all the orphaned children from April 2020 to date. It's worth watching Odisha's plan of action.