Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani, has informed the Parliament that a total of 645 children have lost both their parents to Covid-19 in the second wave of the pandemic between April and May 28, 2021. But the information provided by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in their affidavit before the Supreme Court on June 7, stated that there are a total of 30,071 children who have lost either one or both parents or been abandoned up to June 5, 2021.
As per Irani’s written response on July 30, the maximum number of children who lost their parents to Covid-19 are from Uttar Pradesh (158) and Andhra Pradesh (119). Maharashtra comes next where 83 children were orphaned, followed by Madhya Pradesh (73). Haryana, Goa, Chandigarh, Bihar, Chandigarh, Tripura, Mizoram, Sikkim, Nagaland, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Arunachal Pradesh and Andamans and Nicobar Island have recorded no orphans according to the information provided by the Centre.
Surprisingly, her answer stated that the data collected on the ‘Bal Swaraj Portal’ launched by National Commission for Protection of Child Right regarding orphans is not specific to those children who have lost their parents to Covid-19.
But NCPCRs affidavit in the matter In Re: Contagion of Covid-19 virus in Children Homes (Suo Motu Civ. No. 4 of 2020), disclosed that out of the 30,071 children, 3,621 have been orphaned, 26,176 children have lost one parent and 274 children who have been abandoned since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Supreme Court had also directed all State and district authorities to upload information on the website of the NCPCR pertaining to all children who have become orphans or lost one of their parents after March, 2020 either due to Covid-19 or otherwise.
The 645 tally is more than what Irani had alleged a few months ago. On May 25, Irani had talked about committed efforts to support “577 children” who lost their parents to Covid-19 between April 1 and May 25, 2021. She tweeted this number while talking about children who had lost both their parents during the second wave of the health crisis.
But while speaking to SabrangIndia, NGO Save The Children had said it was difficult to assess the exact number of children who were orphaned in India. However, the NGO suspected that 577 may not be an accurate number, especially considering recent data on the subject by Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan alone that amounted to 402 orphans around May.
Referring to government data, NGO worker Prabhat Kumar told SabrangIndia that Andhra Pradesh reported 135 orphans and 1,716 semi-orphans (lost one parent) in the last two months. Madhya Pradesh reported 250 orphans and 1,200 semi-orphans between April and May. Meanwhile, Rajasthan said 17 orphans were registered between March and May 15, 2021.
“These amount to 402 orphans who have lost both parents in just three states. There are other states that report much higher official Covid-deaths. So, it can be assumed that the number is much higher,” he said.
The Covid fatality rate in India, especially during the second wave was devastatingly underreported by the governments. The Supreme Court on July 27, reportedly pulled up the West Bengal for they submitted that only 27 children were orphaned. LiveLaw quoted the Bench saying, “Can we record it then? We’ll record and ask the Secretary to appear. You are so steadfast in saying only 27 orphans are there in such a big State. See figures from other States. We are not prepared to believe this figure at all.”
In another written response, provided by Ms. Irani on July 30, a total of 87 children residing in Child Care Institutions have been infected with coronavirus as on July 23, 2021. But this data is only from 16 States. The Minister also provided figures about the total number of children housed in the Child Care Institutions across all States and Union Territories. In 1,594 homes, 67,864 children are housed. 6,000 children reside in about 250 open shelters and 373 specialised adoption agencies have 3,751 children.
The answers may be read here:
Over 1,500 Children Homes caretakers arrested for child abuse, only 75 convicted
GoI claims 577 Covid-orphans, but numbers may far exceed official data: Outreach workers
9,346 children abandoned, orphaned, lost a parent to Covid-19: NCPCR informs SC
Upload information about children orphaned due to Covid: SC to Districts