Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani | ANI file photo
Smriti Irani | ANI file photo
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New Delhi: Amid a surge of Covid-19 deaths across the country, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has asked the health ministry to ask hospitals across the country to take declarations from parents being admitted, to whom their children should go to in case of their deaths, ThePrint has learnt.

In a letter written to Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, WCD Secretary Ram Mohan Mishra has said, “I am writing to you in light of reports regarding children losing parents during Covid pandemic, with no one to take them immediately.

“The distress and anguish is not only damaging to their being, it also puts them in a vulnerable situation, which can be manipulated to their disadvantage while encouraging evils such as child labour or trafficking,” states the letter accessed by ThePrint.

“It would be very useful if parents could themselves provide details of their trusted relatives or friends to be contacted, in case of any eventuality,” it further says. “In this regard, I would request you to direct the hospitals and Covid care facilities through the state health departments, to add a column seeking the name, relation and contact details of the person to whom the children should be handed over, in the hospital admission form.”

The letter adds that the measure is to ensure that a child’s best interests are protected.

“It will help ensure that in case of any unforeseen circumstance the children are handed over to the trustworthy person in the best interest of the children,” it states. “The information about such cases can be sent by the hospital to the Child Welfare Committee for further follow up.”

Also read: States grapple with vaccine shortage, but Modi govt asks them to return ‘unutilised’ stock

‘Health ministry can ensure compliance’

According to sources in the WCD ministry, this communication has been sent to the health ministry since the latter can ensure compliance of hospitals and Covid care centres, and cases of children being left in a lurch can be minimised.

“Any adoption has to take place through the Child Welfare Committee under the Juvenile Justice Act,” a WCD official said. “However, given the unprecedented nature of the situation, if declarations are taken from parents, regarding who their minor children can be handed over to, the work of the CWC can also be eased out.”

The communication from the ministry comes at a time when several cases of children orphaned due to Covid have come to the fore, and illegal posts on social media regarding their adoption are being circulated.

The issue had even prompted WCD Minister Smriti Irani to tweet that it was illegal to adopt children without following proper procedure.

“If you come to know of any child who has lost both parents to COVID and has no one to take care of her/him, inform Police or Child Welfare Committee of your district or contact Childline 1098. It is your legal responsibility,” she tweeted.

“It is illegal to give or take orphan children of anyone else in adoption. Such children should be taken to the Child welfare committee, which will take necessary action in the best interest of the child,” she further said.

“If anyone contacts you regarding orphan children available for direct adoption, do not get into the trap & stop them. It’s illegal. Inform local Child welfare Committee or Police or Childline 1098 about such children.”

The WCD secretary had also written to all state governments on 30 April, asking them to direct all district magistrates to ensure the immediate rehabilitation of Covid orphaned children in accordance with the provisions of the JJ Act.

“It may be ensured that such children are produced before the CWC within 24 hours,” it said. “The CWC should ascertain the immediate need of the child and pass appropriate orders for rehabilitation of the child, either to restore the child to care givers or place him/him under institutional or non-institutional care on a case-to-case basis.”

The ministry has also sought weekly compliance reports from the states in this regard.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: ‘Even we can’t get help’, IAS, IPS, IRS officers say as panic sets in after spate of Covid deaths


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