Taking note of the plight of children orphaned by COVID-19 who are struggling to get assured benefits of government welfare schemes, Delhi High Court on August 23 directed Delhi State Legal Service Authority (DSLSA) to help the state streamline the system to help distressed children who lost their parents in getting verification of their documents.
Appearing on behalf of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, advocate Prabhsahay Kaur informed the High Court about a family of seven siblings, who were orphaned during second wave of COVID-19 in Delhi in the months of April and May.
Advocate Kaur also told the Court that though the state government framed various schemes in this regard in June this year, implementation on the ground is still lacking.
Appearing on behalf of Delhi Government, senior advocate Rahul Mehra submitted that owing to requirement of verification of documents, implementation of the scheme for grant of compensation due to COVID-19 is taking time.
Hearing various aspects connected to the pandemic, including rehabilitation of children who have lost one or both parents due to COVID-19, the High Court said since the schemes have been framed to grant benefits to children, the approach of the government has to be to act proactively. “It will be unfair to expect children who lost their parents to be able to procure documents and to avail benefits for which they are entitled to,” the Court said.
Delhi High Court also noted that around 6,200 children have lost one parent and 292 children have lost both their parents in the pandemic and the figures are likely to undergo a revision due to collection of fresh data.
The court asked the Delhi government to evolve a simple process while ensuring benefits to children in need and also asked the Chief Secretary to file a status report relating to welfare schemes under the Juvenile Justice Act.
Welcoming the Delhi High Court directive, Sampurna Behura, Director (Strategic Litigation), Bachpan Bachao Andolan, said while the schemes rolled out by the Delhi Government are a step in the right direction, efforts must be made to ensure they don’t remain just on paper. “Time is of essence and rehabilitation of children orphaned during COVID-19 pandemic must be done in a time-bound manner. Children cannot be deprived of what is rightfully theirs. Government needs to adopt a proactive approach to ensure children in need get the benefits of welfare schemes.”
The next date of hearing in the case is September 9.