New Delhi: In a move to protect the welfare of the children affected by COVID-19, the Central government on Thursday issued a number of guidelines. It also delegated fixed responsibilities for the states, district magistrates, police, Panchayati Raj institutions and urban local bodies.
In order to streamline and facilitate the actions being taken, Women and Child Development Ministry Secretary Ram Mohan Mishra on Wednesday told that the major responsibilities of the primary duty holders have been enlisted to ensure the best interest of children during the pandemic.
According to data compliled from the states, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), in an affidavit to the Supreme Court had revealed that a total 9,346 children have lost at least one of the parents to the deadly virus, including over 1,700 who have lost both their parents.
As per the guidelines, the states need to identify the children in distress through outreach and surveys and prepare a database with a profile of each child, along with the details of their specific needs and requirements, and ensure that the data is uploaded on the Track Child portal.
Mr Mishra also told the states and Union territories to temporarily allocate child care institutions (CCIs) to house those children whose parents have been unwell due to COVID-19 and provide necessary support to them, in case the extended family is not available to take care of them.
The Women and Child Development Ministry has asked the states to issue directions to hospitals to collect the contact details of trustworthy persons known to the patients in the admission form, to be contacted for taking care of children in case of any eventuality.
"Immediate temporary rehabilitation of children through the existing child care facilities supported under the Child Protection Services scheme must be ensured," Mr Mishra said.
The states have also been asked to make suitable arrangements for isolation facilities within the CCIs to take care of the children suffering from Covid and prepare a roaster of child psychologists or counsellors to visit the facilities and interact with the children.
Mr Mishra further asked the states to launch a local helpline number manned by experts for giving psychosocial care or support to the children in distress.
On the role of the DMs, he said they shall be the guardians of the vulnerable children impacted adversely by Covid.
"The DM shall make efforts that such children are rehabilitated in the following order of preference, in the manner as prescribed under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015," he said.
In addition, he said it must be ensured that all children orphaned during the pandemic are provided free education through government day schools or residential schools.
"Based on the specific need of the child, he or she can also be enrolled in the nearest private schools under RTE section 12(1)(c). Efforts may be made to include eligible orphan children under the existing scholarship schemes of the central or state governments," Mr Mishra said.