Kolkata: According to sources in the Ministry of Women and Child Development, more than 500 children have been orphaned in the past 55 days due to the pandemic. The Ministry has also advised refraining from circulating messages on social media offering the adoption of children who have lost their parents to Covid. Any person wishing to adopt an orphaned child may approach the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) for lawful adoptions.

The State Adoption Resource Agency (SARA) has assured that the West Bengal government has taken several initiatives to stop the illegal trafficking of children. “The state government has initiated some facilities to stop illegal trafficking of children,” Tanima Chatterjee, Additional Program Officer, SARA, told The Sunday Guardian.

The district of Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, has reported three children who have lost their parents in the pandemic. “On May 24, we received information about three children who have lost their parents to Covid. All of them are from Siliguri, West Bengal. One is 16-year-old and the other two are 13 years of age. We have reported to the authorities concerned and they are carrying out investigation. We have also given the information to the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU). These three children study in semi-government schools. The principal and school teachers have assured all help to them. Currently, the authorities are carrying out investigation,” Baby Upadhayay, Chairperson, Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Jalpaiguri, West Bengal told The Sunday Guardian.

The law under Section 2(14) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, states that children without parents or caregivers are defined as children in need of care and protection. The ministry has also advised bringing such cases to the notice of the District Child Welfare Committee within 24 hours, excluding journey time.

District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) ensures the implementation of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) in every district. The scheme is formed on the principles of “protection of child rights” and the “best interest of the child.”

“Our authorities are constantly checking whether such cases have arrived anywhere in the district,” Partha Sarathi Mandal, District Child Protection Officer, Bankura, told this newspaper. Most of the districts confirmed that no such cases had been reported yet.

Sources in the CWCs have expressed that the Covid restrictions have resulted in an inadequate number of staff in several child care institutions. Such limited numbers of caretakers have brought forth some new difficulties. Many orphaned children in child care institutions have not been able to study online. Also, many economically deprived children living in child care institutions have returned home due to the pandemic. Several cases of early marriage have been witnessed around the state. The child care institutions and child-line units monitor the well-being of children in their respective regions. The district administration also examines sanitation works in the institutions.