Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday released benefits of a financial assistance scheme for children who have lost their parents to coronavirus disease. The scheme was announced in May last year.

“It is difficult to put into words the pain of the children who are with us today, for whom this program is happening,” Modi said. “PM-CARES for Children is a small effort to reduce the difficulties of such corona affected children who lost both their mother and father.”

Under the “PM-CARES for Children” scheme, the beneficiaries get a monthly stipend until they turn 18 from a corpus of Rs 10 lakh in order to meet personal expenses and higher education. Once they turn 23 years old, the government will give them the entire Rs 10 lakh.

The children are also enrolled as beneficiaries under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme with a health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh, where the premium amount will be paid by the government till a child turns 18.

More than 1.19 lakh children in India had lost their primary or secondary caregivers due to Covid-19 between March 2020 and April 2021, a study published in the medical journal Lancet had claimed in July last year. Primary caregivers refer to parents, while secondary includes grandparents.

The number was significantly higher than the data submitted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights’ to the Supreme Court in 2021 for the same period.

Citing data from its portal, Bal Swaraj, the child rights body had told the Supreme Court in June that the total number of children who have lost both parents was 1,742, while 7,464 children have lost one parent and 140 were abandoned.

However, in February this year, the Ministry of Women and Child Development had said that 3,890 children orphaned due to Covid-19 were registered with it, according to The Hindu.

At Monday’s event, Modi also announced that a monthly stipend of Rs 4,000 would be arranged for the children through various government schemes.

“If someone needs an education loan for professional courses, for higher education, then PM-CARES will help in that too,” Modi said.

The prime minister made the announcements on the day his government completed eight years in power.

“The last eight years have been devoted to the welfare and service of the poor,” he said. “We have tried to reduce difficulties and improve the ease of living for the poor of the country.”