Covid orphans: Supreme Court takes up cause, orders appointment of nodal officers in 10 states

ILNS: The Supreme Court bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Anirudhha Bose Tuesday took the first step in helping children orphaned by Covid and has decided that initially ten states — Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand Maharashtra, Bihar, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Kerala – will appoint nodal officers will interact with the court-appointed Amicus in finalising the procedure to be followed in rehabilitating the children.

While funds would be available from PM CARES fund and other sources, the first duty of Amicus Curiae Advocate Gaurav Agarwal will be to have a list of children who have either lost both their parents or one parent (the bread-winner of the family). The number at the moment is 9,436, but this is not final. To do this, the Amicus will have to get help from the nodal officers. Other states will be taken into the picture in the second stage.

In its previous hearing the bench had directed the district administrations of all states to take charge of children orphaned due to the Covid19 pandemic after March 2020. The Court had the children’s basic needs should be attended to while further orders are passed.

Amicus Agarwal said: “There are more than 9,000 children who have lost the earning father and earning member in their family.”

The bench said: “We assume that breadwinners are dead.

Agarwal: “The PM CARES has come up with a scheme to grant aid to children who have lost their parents. (Reading about the scheme) It will continue the education of children, financial help for children for higher education, health insurance till 18 years. How is the GoI going to implement this scheme? How is this going to happen? There may be some suggestion from Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati.

The bench asked: “You want a nodal officers to be appointed?”

Agarwal: “We want five southern states and five northern states (where this has to happen first). They are Gujarat, Rajasthan, UP, Jharkhand Maharashtra Bihar, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.”

Bench: “We will have it next Monday.”

ASG Aishwarya Bhati: “The modalities of the PM CARES facilities have to be worked out.”

Bench: “We will appoint a Nodal Officer who will communicate with the Amicus on how all schemes are going to be implemented. We need the exact data of children who have become orphaned. Ten states are going to appoint nodal officers. Initially 10 states, but we won’t stop at 10.  We will take two-states per day.”

Advocate Swarupama Chaturvedi for NCPCR: “On data about children who have lost their parents, please give us time for verifying and uploading the data. Every day we are getting information.”

Bench: “We will do that. We will direct the states governments to continue uploading information about the orphans.”

NCPCR: “May this order record both children who have lost both parents and also either of the parents.”

Bench: “Children who have lost either of their parents should be considered Children in Need of Care and Protection (CNCP).”

The order of the bench was as follows:

“As per the previous orders we have directed to upload the information of Children who become orphaned after March 2020.  We have directed the state authorities to take care of the basic needs of those children. The NCPCR filed an affidavit in which it shows the data of Children who have lost either of the parents and both the parents. At present there are 9,436 children who have lost parents.

“NCPCR counsel submits that States have not been able to provide the complete information regarding the children who have been affected during the pandemic. Time given to district authorities is extended in these circumstances.

“Mr Sachin Patil for Maharashtra and Manish Singhvi for Rajasthan submitted that district authorities are finding it difficult to upload the data.

“The learned amicus apprised us about the scheme announced by the PM. The PM CARES for Children: Empowerment of COVID affected Children launched for support and empowerment of Covid affected Children. The Particulars of the scheme are not available. Amicus submit to direct the Government of India (GoI) to provide the necessary details about the scheme announced on 29/05/2021. ASG Aishwarya Bhati undertakes to file the details of the said Scheme. The UOI shall also furnish details about the mechanism which would be adopted for monitoring the scheme.

“The learned amicus submitted that the large number of States and UTs have filed short notes and reports and in response to the notice issued on 28, May 2021.

“The learned amicus requested the Court to direct the State Govt to appoint a nodal officer at secretary level, who will interact with him. To provide the related information of the orphans and CNCP and discuss about the problems faced for identifying and steps taken for identification and any other problem pertaining to the implementation of the scheme in force.

“The Amicus has submitted that 10 states Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand Maharashtra, Bihar, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Kerala, to start, with and the said exercise to be completed before next Monday.

“The above State Govt are hereby Directed to appoint a Nodal Officer at the level of Secretary and Joint Secretary to contact with the Amicus. Identification of orphans and CNCP and for the Scheme.

“The Amicus shall submit a detailed report regard to the orphans and CNCP in those states by Sunday Evening. We will take it up on Monday.
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