Authorities raise alarm over manner of handling children orphaned by Covid

DCPCR chairperson Anurag Kundu has written to Delhi Police Commissioner S N Shrivastava to take cognizance of and intervene in such posts to protect these vulnerable children from child trafficking.

With the Covid-19 death toll rising every day, child welfare authorities are stepping in to stop unregulated calls for adoption of children who have lost their parents to the virus in the last few weeks.

Both the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) have raised an alarm over social media posts asking for intervention in the form of adoption of children who have lost their parents in the current Covid surge.

Among these have been for a 14-year-old child who lost both parents to the virus within days of each other, another for a three-day-old baby girl and a six-month-old baby.

DCPCR chairperson Anurag Kundu has written to Delhi Police Commissioner S N Shrivastava to take cognizance of and intervene in such posts to protect these vulnerable children from child trafficking.

“The DCPCR has come across many instances on social media (Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp) where the people who have information about the orphan children are encouraging people to adopt these children. In some cases, they post updates that the child or children have been adopted. I am sure that some of these are out of innocence and ignorance of the law governing adoption. However, they may also be cases of trafficking and sale-purchase of children. Either way, deserve to be inquired into to get to the depth of the matter…,” he wrote, going on to request that the Delhi police be vigilant of such instances on social media and take cognizance of such cases.

“It would also be helpful if the Delhi Police joins the Commission’s efforts in raising awareness about the adoption process and encouraging citizens not to engage in such reckless acts, aware others and report such instances,” the letter read.

Delhi Council for Child Welfare director Dr Sandhya Bhalla emphasised that redressal and rehabilitation of children left orphaned must only be carried out through existing government channels.

“The ideal response is to contact either the police or the child helpline at 1098 so that they can be placed under the care of government institutions or given the appropriate Covid care that they need. At our orphanage too, we are getting calls to take in children who have lost their parents to Covid but any intervention has to happen through the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) and Child Welfare Committees. It is a regulated process and children cannot just be picked up, if out of goodwill,” she said.

The NCPCR has also raised a nationwide alarm over this rising issue and has written to the Chief Secretaries of all states and union territories, underlining the due process to be followed in such cases under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act.

“These children who have lost family support due to Covid-19 or are found to be abandoned due to the loss of parents to Covid-19 are child in need of care and protection as per the JJ Act, 2015, and such children must be produced before the Child Welfare Committee as per Section 31 of JJ Act, 2015, so that necessary orders for care of the child can be passed. It is necessary for every individual, entity, organisation, NGO to ensure that if any such information is received for orphaned and abandoned children by them during these Covid times, then the same must be informed to the childline helpline 1098 and the child must be produced before the Child Welfare Committee of the district,” read a letter by NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo.

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