WBCPCR files petition in Calcutta HC, seeks directive to EC to pay compensation to COVID-19 orphans
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The West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) has filed a petition in Calcutta High Court seeking directions to the Election Commission of India to pay compensation to children who have been orphaned in the second wave of COVID-19 and to the families that have lost their children to the virus after the announcement of the Assembly polls, reported Telegraph India. This comes days after the Allahabad High Court observed that the Election Commission, the Higher Courts and the Government failed to fathom the disastrous consequences of permitting the elections in few states.

According to the report by Telegraph India, the WBCPCR in its petition has held the Election Commission of India responsible for holding elections in West Bengal and allowing rallies throughout the state with no COVID-19 guidelines. In the petition, the child rights commission accused the EC of “wilfully and deliberately putting the lives of about 10 crore in the state into the depth of despair” amid the pandemic by conducting an eight-phase election.

The WBCPCR told the leading daily that the statistics of pre-and post-poll COVID-19 cases reveal that countless number of children have directly and indirectly been affected during the time of the Assembly election.

The WBCPCR has also attached copies of COVID-19 bulletins of the state health department from dates before, during and after the polls to its petition. The state health department COVID-19 data showed a significant rise in active COVID-19 cases. According to the data, a week before the first phase of polls, less than 4,000 active COVID-19 cases were reported in West Bengal and by the time the seventh phase of election was held on April 26, 2021, the state reported more than one lakh active cases. While the new cases per day increased from under 400 to around 16,000.

The WBCPCR's petition also states that some of the affected children were those with special needs. As per the report, the child rights commission said the Election Commission was “solely responsible and accountable for the children, firstly those who have lost their lives to COVID-19, secondly those who have survived the disease and are thus compelled to live the rest of their lives with post-Covid syndromes, thirdly those who have lost both their parents and guardians and have thus been rendered as orphans, fourthly those who are being compelled to live like orphans since their parents and guardians are admitted in medical facilities”.

The WBCPCR has appealed to the court to direct the “EC to compensate each of the families of the deceased children, being responsible and accountable for the children who have lost their lives due to the COVID-19 disease in the state (after the) announcement of the general election on February 26.”

Last month, the Allahabad High Court had asked the Uttar Pradesh government and the state election commission to rethink the amount of compensation for families of polling officers, who died due to COVID-19 during panchayat elections, and observed that the amount must at least be to the tune of Rs one crore.

"To compensate the loss of life of the family's bread earner and that too because of a deliberate act on part of the State and the State Election Commission to force them to perform duties in absence of RT-PCR support, the compensation must be at least to the tune of Rs one crore. We hope that the State Election Commission and the government will rethink the amount of compensation and come back to us on the next date fixed," it observed.

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