The government has come out with guidelines for the care and protection of children affected by Covid-19 and fixed responsibilities for the states, district magistrates, police, Panchayati Raj institutions and urban local bodies.
In a letter to chief secretaries of all the states and Union territories, Women and Child Development Ministry Secretary Ram Mohan Mishra on Wednesday said in order to streamline and facilitate the actions being taken, the major responsibilities of the primary duty holders have been enlisted to ensure the best interest of children during the pandemic.
The states need to identify the children in distress through outreach and surveys and prepare a database with a profile of each child, along with details of their specific needs and requirements, and ensure that data is uploaded on Track Child portal. Mishra told the states and UTs to temporarily allocate child care institutions (CCIs) to house those children whose parents have been unwell due to Covid-19 and provide necessary support to them.
The states have also been asked to make suitable arrangements for isolation facilities within the CCIs to take care of the children suffering from Covid and prepare a roaster of child psychologists or counsellors to visit the facilities and interact with the children.
Mishra further asked the states to launch a local helpline number manned by experts for giving psychosocial care or support to the children in distress.
On the role of the DMs, he said they shall be the guardians of the vulnerable children impacted adversely by Covid. The WCD secretary said district police teams must stay alert and vigilant to prevent trafficking of children, illegal adoption, child marriage, child labour or any other kind of abuse.
"All cases of children offered for adoption on social media to be traced and action may be taken against the perpetrators if found guilty. Vigil may be kept on the CCIs and the vulnerable hot spots in the district housing children at risk during the police beats or night rounds in urban and rural areas," he said.
In addition, he said it must be ensured that all children orphaned during the pandemic are provided free education through government day schools or residential schools.