Responsibility Towards Pandemic Orphans

Many children have been unfortunately left orphaned by the covid-19 pandemic. There are many who want to contribute for their better upbringing. Most people believe that it will give these children a shot at a better life than they can get from impoverished surviving relatives. However, sometimes even well-intentioned initiatives may go wrong. At the same time there is a tendency that some bad intentioned people try to take advantage of the plight of these children. It is here that the government must ensure balance and make certain that the interests and rights of such children are secured. The Supreme Court of India has held that no adoption of children orphaned since pandemic should be permitted contrary to the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. It is imperative that the order is adhered to, as past experience shows that the danger of children falling victim to traffickers under the guise of adoption is ever-present. The recent incident at Pampore Pulwama is a reminder of the lurking dangers.  There are bound to be cruel elements, those who seek to exploit the innocent and helpless children rendered orphans or without caregivers.

In a quick action, the J&K government has arrested two persons following an investigation by a news organisation and subsequent probe by the authorities concerned. Office of the NGO has been sealed after the “sale” of two children for Rs 75,000-1.75 lakh per child surfaced.

The Chief Secretary rightly called for the need for strict action by all concerned including the Social Welfare Department and the law enforcement agencies to prevent occurrence of such incidents in future.

The direction by the chief secretary calling for the constitution of joint teams of the social welfare education department, Magistrates from DC office and police to verify the records of nari ashrams, bal ashrams, concerned NGOs and trust and orphanages is right. The child welfare committees in a welcome direction have been asked to meet covid orphans identified by the department and submit a report.

With the pandemic still raging and a third wave looming, it is essential that a proper record of the affected children is kept to prevent them from falling prey to the big wolves lurking around. There is need for due diligence and surveillance at the district level to enable a foolproof intervention for the children in need of care.

Incident like the one at Pampore is a necessary reminder to the authorities that they have a special responsibility to protect the interests and welfare of children in times like this.

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