A quite numbing trend has surfaced in Odisha. When the second wave of the pandemic has started gripping the State hard, a massive around 17 children have been getting orphaned every day.
The absolute number looks quite mindboggling. In just a 64-day period, nearly 1100 children in the State has been either abandoned or orphaned. Significantly, it is in response to the evolving disturbing spectre, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has launched a scheme - Ashirvad Yojana - to financially support kids hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As per data with the National Commission For Protection of Child Right's (NCPCR), Bal Swaraj, during the period of April 1 - June 5, a total of 1,073 children in Odisha have either been abandoned or orphaned or lost at least one parent. The NCPCR's Bal Swaraj online platform has been formed basically to track online the status of children orphaned or abandoned by Covid-19.
If the NCPCR data is any indication, then Odisha is among the top-10 states in the country. The State is at 9th place when the table is led by Maharashtra - country's Covid-19 epicentre.
However, the NCPCR has clarified in a note to the Apex Court that the total count of 1,073 includes children not affected by Covid-19 but had lost their parents. The data has been collected from the Odisha Government, the note mentioned.
The Commission data shows over one-third of the children orphaned in the State belong to the age group of 8-13 years. The age group of 16-18 years and 4-7 years followed with a respective share of around 15-17 per cent each.
With the tragic case of Balasore hitting the headlines focussing how a newborn lost both its parent to the virus, data shows nearly 8 per cent of orphaned children in the State belong to the age group of 0-3 years.
A look at the gender data doesn't show any statically significant trend, though the number of male kids orphaned stood little higher than the girl child.
The State's Story
As per the data with the Odisha State Commission for Protection Of Child Rights (OSCPCR), only 38 children have lost their parents to Covid-19 in the State. As per official sources, an updated data will be released soon.
Orphan Count In Odisha
Odisha has a total of around 33000 kids who are either orphaned or abandoned till the year 2019-20, reveals the data with the OSCPCR. The data further shows that of a total of 33000 kids identified across the State, as of date, over 9,100 are in the custody of child care centres.
The Real Count?
Even as the OSCPCR is going to release the latest count of Covid-19 orphaned children in the State soon, a wide variance is observed in the number presented by NCPCR and OSCPCR.
What child rights activists say?
"Since the State has never seen such a swift rise in orphaned or abandoned children in such a short span of time, there is every possibility that the pandemic has been the main factor behind the majority of orphan child cases reported across Odisha. There is a need for a proper audit of the number of orphaned children during the pandemic. Because earlier it was seen children losing their parents mainly to road or workplace mishaps. Only in a marginal number of cases, deaths of parents have been recorded on account of diseases like malaria to cancer. But such reports are intermittent, not sporadic," explained Sadashiv Pradhan, child right activist.
As per the scheme announced by CM Patnaik, Rs 2,500 per month will be deposited in the bank account. In addition, Rs 1,500 will be deposited directly in the bank account of the children who have lost their main beneficiary - father or mother. The support will continue till the child attains the age of 18 years.
Besides, for the special need children, the benefits of the schemes like National Food Security and Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana are applicable.