The Orphaned Children In The Post Pandemic India, where the second wave of the COVID-19 virus has ravaged India, triggering an economic-social and political crisis. The carelessness of the Political Elites in conducting the election rallies in the recent state elections and the rampant violations of the COVID-19 protocols has revealed that Indian democracy is based on the blatant use of glorification of power and might. The current scenario in India is triggering an Orphan crisis, thousands of children have lost their homes and both their parents in the pandemic. According to UNICEF Chief Yasmin Haque, such children are living an emotional tragedy, they are at high risk of neglect, abuse and exploitation[i] (AFP, 2021).
The conditions are dire where babies are being put up for illegal adoption on social media, on the other hand, appeals are being made for lactating women to feed those orphaned babies who lost their mothers. This is the ideal situation of human trafficking and adoption racket to breed into the system. The Indian law addresses the Indian government officials to look after the child and is to be put under an institution if there are no relatives to look after them, but the situation of the Indian Orphanages is worse than ever with the current scenario at hand, several incidents and reports have shown that the conditions at the Indian orphanages are not the right condition for any child to grow into, staffs here are often implicated with criminal charges and children are often sexually abused, psychologically and physically beaten.
In such a kind of environment, children learn to bully and assault one another. A report came out in 2018 about the shelter home case in Muzaffarpur in Bihar after Tata Institute of Social Science carried out a social audit on shelter homes in Bihar. These privately run Shelter Homes “Refuse” to be registered with the 2000’s Juvenile Justice Act. The government-run orphanages do not have any standardization in quality of care, and this system lacks the regulatory bodies and thus escape the scrutiny of the Indian judicial system.[ii] (Save The Children , 2017) Several problems have risen to this case of the orphan crisis in India due to the Pandemic.
RISE OF SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE THREAT TO GIRL-CHILD
Children are bearing the brunt of the failed policies of the state, rise in sexual cases and child abuse are rampant. Girls as young as 14 years are sexually abused within their own family during the pandemic. They are being pushed into hard labour at minimum wage. Protsahan NGO which works with the children, notified in their interview with The Diplomat, said, the children are affected by the trauma: “In slum areas of India where we usually work, there are children who have been deserted by their fathers after their mothers died of COVID. They are forced to do hard labour and are paid very little. They do not have an option as the government is yet to reach such children with any help. To feed themselves and in many cases their younger siblings as well, they must do this work,“.
Reports have also surfaced where girls are often sexually abused by their fathers who have been rendered jobless in the pandemic. These girls fear to come forward as they are dependent on their fathers and fear being homeless if they raise their voice[iii]. (Umar Sofi, 2021).
Children are forced to work as vegetable sellers, mean jobs to sustain themselves, another case pointed out at two siblings allegedly, wishing to take their own loves after the demise of their parents. Protsahan NGO reported “We’re looking at a generation of children in extreme distress and facing severe trauma who will grow up to be broken adults,” Bachpan Bachao Andolan another NGO reported that there were about 50 calls per day, which was a big increase from last year. “This is not the first time that children are being orphaned. But this time, the child must face it alone. There are inhibitions in even hugging a child in pain,”[iv] (AFP, 2021)
THE BURDEN OF ORPHANED LIFE
Children have witnessed their parents’ death, outside the dire conditions of hospitals with no beds and proper care, this puts the children in a very sensitive position where they must grapple with the death of their parents as well as, face life alone. The fragile mental condition of these traumatic events adds up to their personality while growing up, these conditions will further aggravate the situation, as they are left to battle the institutional strain and economic struggles by themselves with no moral support.
THE ILLEGAL SCHEME OF ADOPTION
Social Media is flooded with messages of people to adopt orphaned children, India as mentioned before, has laws for adoption, in such cases, the government can track the children, but social media aggravates the present condition by putting these children into the hands of traffickers. Without proper background check of the families in such cases, the adoption process has scummed to an online business. Fake phone calls from NGOs for financial help for those who lost their parents in the COVID-19 are also running parallel, scheming people with their emotions. The Ministry of Child Development has issued a dedicated helpline number 1098 to be informed about those children who have lost their families in the COVID-19.[v] (Umar Sofi , 2021)
Unfortunately, the state is not cleared about the number of children who are rendered orphaned at this stage with the current scenario. As a society, we lack behind in protecting our children. Certain state governments have offered relief in terms of providing rupees 50,000 to those families who have died of COVID-19, free education of rupees 2500 for those orphaned till the age of 18. Uttarakhand government has proposed 3000 rupees to orphans and 5% reservation in the jobs for those when they will reach of age.
Madhya Pradesh government has offered 5000 rupees to the orphaned children and free education. Andhra Pradesh government has offered fixed deposits of 10 Lakhs rupees to the children which will mature/be handed over to the children when they reach the age of 21 years. Gujrat government would be giving 4000 rupees to the children till the child reaches 18 years of age. The problem lies at the crux of few basic pointers: identification of orphaned children who lost their parents in the “pandemic”, the time required for these governments to identify and classify these groups, and how fast they are going to put aids into actions.[vi] (HW News English, 2021).
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?
- A centralized aid program for Orphaned Children- Standard program for children in terms of education, boarding, and a safe environment till the 18 years of age. Yearly feedback mechanism run by the government through various agencies to know that the children are safe.[vii] (HW News English, 2021) Thus, entrusting the government with the regulatory body, which will bring the groups under the direct supervision of the government. The government, in this situation must force the private shelter homes to register themselves under the 2000, Indian Juvenile Justice Act.
- Further, the government run shelter homes must take steps in providing quality psychologists and child specialists at these institutions and an independent body that will supervise the staff and ensure proper care is taken. This can be done by partnering with various privately run NGOs.
- Proactive steps should be taken by the state governments which can further delegate the task to the district legislature to connect all the children with the existing support system, social security, child survivor benefits. A national and open effort to provide mental support to all the children who are grappling with the death of their parents. This must include open sessions where students/researchers from the field of psychology can contribute.[viii] (Umar Sofi , 2021)
- Providing a home like environment rather than condolences which will help them grapple with the situation better rather than sympathizing with the situation. The government must endorse adoption as a national policy rather than an issue/taboo in many Indian households.
- As a society we must come forward and report on cases where children are being auctioned/trafficked in the name of adoption on social media, open and fast channel of communication must be established by the government and various ministries of the government, who are liable to take quick and justified actions against the violators of the law.
[ii] Save The Children . ( 2017, August 12/Saturday ). Save The Children. Retrieved from www.savethechildren.in:https://www.savethechildren.in/child-protection/how-indias-children-are-mistreated-at-orphanages/#:~:text=Year%20on%20year%2C%20scandals%20at,%2C%20beaten%2C%20and%20 psychologically%20abused.
[iii] Umar Sofi . (2021, May 10). The Diplomat. Retrieved from thediplomat.com: https://thediplomat.com/2021/05/what-will-happen-to-indias-covid-orphans/
[iv] AFP. (2021, May 20 ). Aljazeera. Retrieved from www.aljazeera.com: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/20/covid-causes-orphan-crisis-in-india-experts-fear-neglect-abuse
[v] Umar Sofi . (2021, May 10). The Diplomat. Retrieved from thediplomat.com: https://thediplomat.com/2021/05/what-will-happen-to-indias-covid-orphans/
[viii] Umar Sofi . (2021, May 10). The Diplomat. Retrieved from thediplomat.com: https://thediplomat.com/2021/05/what-will-happen-to-indias-covid-orphans/
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