Political strategist Prashant Kishor on Sunday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he announced that the Centre will offer support to children who have lost their parents because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement on Saturday, the prime minister’s office said the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations, PM CARES, will contribute toward a scheme to create a Rs 10-lakh fund for each child that they will get after turning 23, with monthly stipends from the age of 18. The scheme will also provide free education and the children will be enrolled as beneficiaries under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme with a health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh.

“He [Modi] also added that the measures being announced have only been possible due to the generous contributions to the PM CARES Fund which will support India’s fight against Covid-19,” the statement said.

On Sunday, Kishor picked on the scheme, calling it a “typical masterstroke” by the Modi government for “redefining empathy and care” for the children affected by the pandemic. In a dig aimed at the Centre, he said that instead of the children receiving support now, they should feel positive about the “promise” of stipend when they turn 18.

“Be grateful to #PMCares for PROMISE of free education; a RIGHT guaranteed by the Constitution/RTE [right to education],” he said.

Kishor also pointed to the shortage of beds and oxygen that has left thousands dead in the country during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. “Thank Prime Minister’s Officer for ASSURANCE to be enrolled in Ayushman Bharat that supposedly covers healthcare needs of 50Cr Indians but only FAILED to provide bed/oxygen when needed,” he tweeted.

As many as 577 children across India have been orphaned after their parents died due to the coronavirus disease between April 1 and May 25, according to the government. On May 21, the Centre had issued an advisory to states and Union territories to review the facilities for vulnerable groups impacted by Covid-19, such as children who have been orphaned, senior citizens and members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who may need guidance to access government support facilities.

On Friday, the Supreme Court had asked state governments to address the basic needs of all children who have been orphaned because of the pandemic. Stating that the health crisis has had a cascading effect on vulnerable children, the court said that states do not need to wait for official orders.

Meanwhile, India on Sunday registered 1,65,553 new coronavirus cases, taking its tally of infections to 2,78,94,800 since the pandemic broke out in January last year. This is the lowest number of new infections recorded in a single day in 46 days. The country’s toll rose to 3,25,972 as it recorded 3,460 deaths in the last day.

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