The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that 9,346 children aged 17 or less have been orphaned or abandoned during the coronavirus pandemic that broke out in January 2020, reported The Hindu.

The data was submitted to the Supreme Court after it asked district authorities on May 28 to upload information about orphaned children on the child rights body’s portal, Bal Swaraj. The court had also asked states to address the basic needs of all children who have been orphaned during the pandemic.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose is hearing a suo motu case in connection with the protection of children from the coronavirus in child care institutions.

On Tuesday, amicus curiae Gaurav Agarwal said that the number of orphaned children was high, adding that the figure may be higher as many states have not been able to upload the data, reported Live Law.

The records on Bal Swaraj shows that of the 9,346 children, 7,464 have lost either of their parents, 1,742 have been orphaned and 140 abandoned. The portal also gave state-wise details of the affected children. As of May 29, West Bengal provided details of one such child and Delhi listed five.

The commission told the court that these children are at a high risk of being pushed into trafficking. The child right body said that it has already received several complaints of government authorities illegally transferring details of children to private entities and non-governmental organisations.

During the hearing, the court also directed the Centre to furnish the details of the scheme announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for children who have been orphaned. It also sought details of the mechanism to monitor the scheme.

On May 29, the Centre had announced a financial assistance scheme for the affected children. Under the scheme, the children will get a monthly stipend once 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.

On the amicus curiae’s suggestions, the bench also directed the states to appoint nodal officers to identify orphaned children and those in need of care. The officers will communicate with the amicus curiae and provide all details related to their identification and any other related matters.

Agarwal identified 10 states – Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, UP, Bihar and Jharkhand – where nodal officers will be appointed. More states should be added to the list, the court said.

The court said that the amicus curiae will submit his report by Sunday and the matter will be taken up for consideration the next day.

Working to address Covid-19 problem in children: Centre

The Centre on Tuesday said that it was “working very systematically, [and] comprehensively” to address the problem related to Covid-19 in children, reported the Hindustan Times.

“We will strengthen our facilities as required and do an audit of what is required and what might be required in a worse-case scenario,” said VK Paul, the chairperson of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19, at a Union health ministry press briefing.

Paul said that infected children are generally asymptomatic and often, symptoms are minimal. “If they do get Covid-19, the infection has not taken serious shape in children and the need to hospitalise is very less,” he said.

Paul, however, said that the virus can change its behaviour in children. “The data has shown that a low number of children are being admitted to hospitals,” he added. “We are pushing preparedness by the day.”

While children are largely protected from the infection compared to adults, experts believe that the possible third wave may even impact the paediatric population, according to the Hindustan Times.

Meanwhile, India reported 1,27,510 new coronavirus cases during the previous 24 hours on Tuesday. Its total count of cases since the outbreak of the pandemic last year rose to 2,81,75,044. The toll rose by 2,795 to 3,31,895.

Follow today’s coronavirus updates here