As India battles a raging second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been several cases of children losing their parents to the deadly infection. Meanwhile, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani has on Tuesday urged people to inform the police or Child Welfare Committees about children who have lost both their parents to COVID-19 and have no one to take care of them.
Taking to Twitter, Irani said, "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."
In a series of tweets, Irani appealed the people to ensure legal adoption of such children. "It is illegal to give or take orphan children of anyone else in adoption. Such children should be taken to Child welfare committee, which will take necessary action in the best interest of the child," she 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," Irani added.
The Union Minister cautioned that orphan children can be trafficked in the name of adoption. "Save them. Inform Police or Child Welfare Committee or Childline 1098 if you come to know of any such child," she said.
"Please do not share pictures and contact detail of vulnerable children in distress situation in social media. Their identity is to be protected as per law. Instead, inform police, Child welfare committee or Childline 1098," Irani further said.
The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) also wrote to States and Union Territories on Monday, urging them to inform child protection authorities about children who have lost both parents due to COVID-19.
"The commission has been made aware of instances where it has been seen that many NGOs are advertising about the children who have become orphan after losing both their parents to COVID-19," NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said in the letter addressed to chief secretaries.
"In such a sad situation of surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, there are situations arising where the child has lost both its parents or is found to be abandoned. It may be noted that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 provides for the procedure to be followed for children who have lost their family support and have become child in need of care and protection," it said.
The procedure under the JJ Act, 2015 ensures that children are provided all the minimum standards of care and their rights are upheld and protected, Kanoongo said.
"Therefore, it is of utmost importance that these children who have lost their family support must be produced before the child protection authorities of the district, and information about these children must be shared with the authorities," he wrote.
"Similarly, it is further requested that if any such information for an abandoned or orphaned children is received by any entity, organisation, NGO then the same can be also be informed to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights either through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through telephone (011-23478250) for assistance and help to the children. This information can also be shared with the respective state commissions of the said state/UT for the same," the letter read.
(With PTI inputs)