UP govt launches welfare scheme for children who lost parents to COVID-19

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Lucknow, May 29 (PTI) The Uttar Pradesh government on Saturday launched a welfare scheme for children who have either lost both of their parents to COVID-19 or the earning parent.

The move by the UP government comes a day after the Supreme Court observed that it cannot even imagine how many children in this large country have got orphaned due to the devastating pandemic, and directed the state authorities to immediately identify them and provide relief.

Elaborating about the scheme, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said, 'Children who have lost both of their parents to COVID-19, a surviving parent, legal guardian in case the parents have already died earlier, will be included in this scheme. Children, who have lost the earning parent of their family will also be included in the scheme. The state government is committed to better health, better education and for the bright future of the children.' Under the Uttar Pradesh Mukhyamantri Bal Seva Yojana, the state government will provide financial assistance to a child's guardian while those who do not have anyone to look after them will be sent to children's homes, an official spokesperson said.

Launching the scheme here, Adityanath said the state government will take care of the upbringing and education of children orphaned by COVID-19.

As part of the scheme, the government will provide a monthly financial assistance of Rs 4,000 to a child's guardian or caretaker till he or she attains adulthood, the spokesperson said.

A senior official said that UP is the first state in the country to come up with a welfare scheme for children who were orphaned due to COVID-19.

Children below 10 years who do not have any family member will be taken care of by the state government children's homes. Currently, such homes are functional in Mathura, Lucknow, Prayagraj, Agra and Rampur, he said.

A minor girl child will be housed in Kasturba Gandhi Girls (Residential) Schools run by Government of India or children's homes (girls) run by the state government. Currently, there are 13 such children's homes in the state.

Apart from this, they will be taken care of in 18 Atal Residential Schools being set up in the state.

The state government will also provide an amount of Rs 1,01,000 for the marriage of such girls.

The spokesperson said there are 197 children in the state who have lost both their parents to COVID-19. As many as 1,799 children have lost either their father or mother to COVID-19 but the annual income of the surviving parents will be evaluated.

Around 1,000 children are likely to benefit from the Uttar Pradesh Mukhyamantri Bal Seva Yojana, he said.

The state government will also provide tablets or laptops to all such children studying in schools, colleges or pursuing vocational education, according to the spokesperson.

The top court had asked state governments to understand the agony of children starving on the streets and directed district authorities that they be immediately taken care of without waiting for any further orders from the courts.

A vacation bench of Justices L N Rao and Aniruddha Bose directed district administrations to identify the orphans in their areas and upload their data on the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) website by Saturday evening.

The top court's direction came on an application filed by amicus curiae Gaurav Agrawal in the pending suo motu case seeking identification of orphaned children due to COVID-19 or otherwise and providing them immediate relief by the state governments.

The bench said state governments must inform it of the position of these children and the steps they have taken to provide them immediate relief. PTI NAV AAR AAR

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