Mrunal Manmay Dash

Even as scientists have warned of the possible impact of COVID-19 third wave on children, the dreaded virus has already taken away smile from the faces of these innocent twins in Gadiabandha village under Padmapur block of Rayagada district in the second wave of the pandemic itself.

After their parents recently fell victim to Coronavirus, the orphaned children have become burdens for the villagers.

"Our parents passed away in COVID. We request the government to provide us with assistance so that we can complete our studies,” said the helpless twins.

Similarly, another report of Coronavirus stealing the playfulness away from children has been received from Brajarajnagar under Jharsuguda district, where two siblings were orphaned after losing their mother to COVID. They had lost their father two years ago.

A grieving neighbour of the children said, “When their parents were alive, the children were quite happy, but after their mother's death, the children are not getting food twice a day."

With such reports coming in from across the State, the Child Line on Thursday demanded an accurate report of all the children who have been orphaned in the pandemic in the State so far. It further demanded a survey with the help of Anganwadi workers and local NGOs to ascertain the actual number of such orphaned children.

It is pertinent to mention here that following the direction of the Supreme Court, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has come out with a startling number of 1742 children who have been orphaned after losing both their parents to COVID.

As far as Odisha is concerned, the number of such children, as per an affidavit submitted by the NCPCR, stands at 14. However, with an ever increasing number of COVID deaths, the Child Line suspects the actual number could be much more.

Meanwhile, the Centre has launched a scheme for all children who have lost both parents, surviving parent, legal guardians or adoptive parents to Covid-19 who will receive financial assistance under the PM-CARES for Children’s scheme.

The PM-CARES will contribute through a specially designed scheme to create a corpus of Rs 10 lakh for each child when he or she reaches 18 years of age. This corpus will be used to give a monthly financial support or stipend, through a fixed deposit in the name of the child, from 18 years of age for the next five years to take care of his or her personal requirements during the period of higher education. On reaching the age of 23 years, he or she will get the corpus amount as one lump-sum for personal and professional use.

Similarly, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik has also provided a much needed support to the orphans by including them in the State’s flagship Madhu Babu Pension Scheme on Wednesday.

However, the child rights body, Child Line has alleged that the real number of the orphaned children is much higher and the government should reveal it.

Dr Benudhar Senapati, Director of Child Line in Bhubaneswar said, “There are a lot others who are hidden from the government’s eyes. The local administration should employ Anganwadi workers and local NGOs to find those and make benefits of the scheme available to them.”