The Supreme Court on Friday asked state government to address the basic needs of all children who have been orphaned because of the coronavirus pandemic, reported Bar and Bench. Noting that the pandemic has had a cascading effect on vulnerable children, the court said that states do not need to wait for official orders.

A Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose issued the directives in a suo motu case in connection with the protection of children from the coronavirus in child care institutions. Amicus Curiae Gaurav Agarwal had submitted that two categories of children needed immediate protection.

“The first category is of children who have lost their parents and guardians,” Agarwal said. “The next is children who have lost parents or guardians who were earning members.”

The court also directed district authorities to upload information about orphaned children on the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights portal by Saturday evening at 8 pm.

The bench said that state governments should inform the court about the children and the steps they have taken to provide them immediate relief, reported PTI. “We have read somewhere that in Maharashtra over 2,900 children have lost their one or both the parents due to Covid-19,” the court said. “We don’t have an exact number of such children. We cannot even imagine how many such children in this large country have got orphaned due to this devastating pandemic.”

The court observed that the Centre has already issued an advisory to the authorities concerned for the protection of children, who have lost their parents due to the coronavirus infection. “There is an obligation on the part of the authorities to ensure such children in need are taken care of,” the court said, referring to the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act.

The matter has been listed for hearing on June 1.

In the application, Agrawal had said that coordinated efforts from the district administration, the district police and the functionaries under Juvenile Justice Act such as Child Welfare Committees was needed for identifying the children and providing them support.

“It is humbly suggested that state governments may consider setting up a District Task Force in each district having representatives from the district administration [like sub divisional magistrate], the police authorities [like deputy superintendent of police] and the functionaries under JJ Act [Juvenile Justice], which would be tasked with identification of vulnerable families and providing assistance that is food, ration, clothing, other necessities and financial assistance to vulnerable families.”

— The application by Amicus Curiae Gaurav Agarwal

In his application, the amicus curiae said that the children should be provided assistance like food, ration, clothing and financial help, and also help in finding temporary employment under government schemes.

Agarwal also raised the matter of increased instances of child trafficking, especially of girls.

Meanwhile, India reported 1,86,364 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours on Friday morning, taking the overall tally to 2,75,55,457 since the pandemic first broke out in January 2020. The toll rose by 3,660 to 31,88,95, while the active caseload stood at 23,43,152.

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