INDIA. Mumbai: Close on the heels of the financial assistance for the COVID-19 orphans, announced by the Union Government, the Maharashtra Government on Wednesday announced financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh for children who have lost their parents due to the coronavirus.
The relative or guardian of the orphaned child will also get Rs 1,125 per month to look after him or her. The government will bear the entire expenses of their education till they turn 21 years old. The proposal was moved by Women and Child Development Minister Yashomati Thakur at a Cabinet meeting. “Fixed deposits of Rs 5 lakh will be made in the name of the orphaned children. When he or she turns 21 years of age, the entire amount can be withdrawn along with interest,” Thakur said.
The benefits will be extended to three categories of children. “First, children whose both parents have died between March 2020 and May 2021 can avail the aid. The second category is of children who have lost one parent to COVID-19 and later lost another parent to some other ailment. The third category caters to children who have lost one parent before March 01, 2020, to non-COVID-19 ailment but later lost the other parent to COVID-19,” Thakur said.
Any child who falls in these categories will be eligible for the benefits of the scheme. The state task force constituted to identify the children has provided the details of 141 such orphans in Maharashtra so far, however, as per their estimates, the number of children will increase to 200. Assuming this, the Cabinet has allocated Rs 10 crore to help such children. “If the number of children increases, additional allocations will be made,” the minister said.
Further, under “Bal Sangopan Yojna”(child parenting scheme) the state government has a provision for relatives or a family member to come forward and take responsibility for orphans. Under this scheme, the relative or guardian will be paid Rs 1,125 monthly aid to take care of COVID-19 orphans. In cases where children have no guardians or relatives, they would be taken to government children’s homes. When they complete school education, skill development training will be imparted, followed by jobs”, Thakur said.
The Centre’s scheme
The Union Government has already announced Rs 10 lakh for orphaned children, family pension for dependents of Coronavirus victims. As many as 577 children across India reportedly lost their parents to the disease between April 01 to May 25, 2021, during the second wave of the pandemic. These children will get a monthly stipend once they turn 18 from a corpus of Rs 10 lakh to meet personal expenses and higher education under the “PM-CARES for Children” scheme. Once they turn 23 years old, the government will give them the entire Rs 10 lakh.
The prime minister’s office said the government will also assist these children with school education. The child will be given admission to the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar. If the child is admitted to a private school, the fees will be paid from the PM CARES fund as per guidelines under the Right To Education Act, 2009.
All children will be enrolled as beneficiaries under the “Ayushman Bharat Scheme” with a health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh, where the premium amount will be paid by PM CARES till a child turns 18. Children will also be assisted to get loans for professional courses or higher education in India according to the existing norms. The interest on this loan will be paid from the PM CARES fund. The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Union Ministry for Women and Child Development’s count comes at a time when several states have announced welfare measures for children orphaned by the pandemic. Delhi, Punjab, and Madhya Pradesh are among those that have promised free education apart from financial assistance, while others like Uttarakhand, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh have announced various welfare schemes.
Family pension scheme
The Union government has also introduced a pension scheme under the Employees State Insurance Corporation for the dependents of those who have died due to COVID-19. Dependent family members of such persons will be entitled to the benefit of pension equivalent to 90 % of the average daily wage drawn by the worker as per the existing norms. This benefit will be available retrospectively with effect from March 24,.2020, and for all such cases till March 24, 2022.
The Centre has also announced that the maximum insurance benefit under the Employees’ Deposit Linked Insurance Scheme has been increased from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 7 lakh. The provision of a minimum insurance benefit of Rs 2.5 lakh has been restored and it will apply retrospectively from February 15, 2020, for the next three years. To benefit families of contractual/ casual workers, the condition of continuous employment in only one establishment has been liberalized, with the benefit being made available to families of even those employees who may have changed jobs in the last 12 months preceding his death, a PMO statement added.
“If you come to know of any child who has lost both parents to COVID and has no one to take care of her/him, inform Police or Child Welfare Committee of your district or contact Childline 1098. It is your legal responsibility”, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani has tweeted.