Onus on States to rehabilitate children orphaned by COVID: Government

Such children come under Juvenile Justice Act, administered by States, says Ministry of Woman and Child Development

The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that it has asked the States to ensure immediate action for rehabilitation of children orphaned due to COVlD-19, in accordance with the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act and leveraging the facilities under child protection services.

The Ministry of Woman and Child Development, in an affidavit, said children in distress situations, such those affected by the pandemic, are mandated care and protection under the JJ Act, 2015.

“The Act provides a safety net of statutory service delivery structures, along with provisions of Institutional and Non-Institutional care and protection of children in need of care and protection of Children in conflict with law,” the Ministry said.

It added that, “implementation of the Act is the primary responsibility of the States and Union Territories”.

The Ministry’s affidavit came in response to a petition before the High Court seeking directions to safeguard the interest of the children who have lost their parents to COVID-19 and who do not have any one else to take care of them and face the risk of being trafficked.

The petition also sought grant of appropriate financial compensation to the family members of those citizens who have lost their lives during the pandemic after being denied access to adequate health care infrastructure in terms of hospital admission, oxygen cylinders, injections, medications etc.

The Ministry acknowledged that the second wave of the COVID pandemic, “given its spread and severity, has created much anxiety and panic across the country”.

“As it is a matter of fact, children have been particularly vulnerable to the psychosocial and mental health impacts of the pandemic. Under these circumstances, service providers might also be finding it challenging to support children with their psychosocial and mental health care needs, along with other decisions about placement and safety,” the Ministry admitted.

The Ministry said it decided that calls from women and girls seeking psychological counselling or showing aggravated behaviors landing on ‘181-WHL’ may be diverted to National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (NIMHANS) on helpline number 080-46110007 for them to provide psychological support to the affected persons.

Additionally, to generate awareness amongst people regarding how to protect children who have lost their parents to COVID, the Ministry said it has prominently displayed an advisory on its website. “Awareness generation in social media is also being done,” it added.

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