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Pradeep Singh

A day after the Odisha government announced the discontinuation of  'Ashirbad' (blessing), a scheme to support children orphaned by Covid-19, Opposition parties today came down heavily on the Naveen Patnaik government accusing it of playing with the sentiments and lives of people during the pandemic time.

Less than three months after launching the Ashirbad scheme to support Covid orphans, the Odisha government on Monday announced its decision for discontinuation from September 15. The scheme includes monthly financial support and other convergent support for eligible children and their caregivers. The beneficiaries include children who lost their parent(s) on or after April 1, 2020.

State BJP general secretary Prithviraj Harichandan said, "Introduction of the scheme by the State government was politically motivated meant to garner praises. The discontinuation of the scheme has now exposed the very intent of the government behind the introduction of the scheme."

Besides, the State government's move has now proved that the announcement of Ashirbad was just meant to divert the attention of people from its failure in handling the Covid situation in the State, Harichandan added.

"Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik stopped the Ashirbad scheme. Why did the government introduce the scheme if it can't take care of the Covid orphans? Where will they go now," questioned Congress MLA Sura Routray while accusing the Odisha government of fooling people.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (OSCPCR) Sandhyabati Pradhan said that financial issues might have been the reason behind the discontinuation of the scheme. "It was a flagship programme of the State government. The government may have discontinued due to financial crisis," she said.

Responding to the issue, Tukuni Sahu, Odisha's Women, Child Development and Mission Shakti Minister, said that many beneficiaries have so far been benefitted from the Ashirbad scheme. 

"There is no impact of the third wave of Covid-19 in Odisha. In case the third wave hits, we will definitely consider the scheme's continuation," she said.

It is pertinent to mention here that while a total of 1231 children have lost their parents (father & mother) since April 1, 2020, in Odisha, as many as 23654 kids have lost one of their parents (either mother or father) during the period in the State.

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