The second wave of COVID-19 has been particularly disastrous for India. The healthcare systems have crashed and people have been losing their lives at a great speed. Amid this, many children have suffered the loss of one or both parents, leaving them mentally and financially unstable.
These COVID orphans need additional support from the state, civil society and corporates. They need to be provided with shelter, food, clothing, education and employment to ensure that as they grow up, they are able to stand on their own feet and are able to lead a comfortable and productive life. Without this support there is a danger that they may lose their paths and get involved in anti-social elements.
There are more than 500 COVID orphans in the country so far. Recognising the need to provide them with a secure future, several corporates, civil societies as well as individuals have made commitments to work towards the upliftment of the lives of COVID orphans. Let us look at these entities.
Confederation of Indian Industry
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is working with the Department of Social Defense and district child protection units to help distressed children in the State of Tamil Nadu.
The CII and CII Foundation, with the support of Kistler Instruments Pvt Ltd, are reaching out to 300 families in one of the largest resettlement sites in Perumbakkam, Chennai, giving them relief kits with ration and sanitation materials. Similarly, CII, with the support of Adwaith Lakshmi Industries Ltd and Lakshmi Ring Travellers Ltd, is providing ration kits in Erode and Coimbatore districts. The exercise is being carried out in a phased manner and will be extended to other districts depending on the need, the release said.
CII is working closely with the State and district administrations to identify the children in need and ensure they get both immediate and long-term support. The initiative has also been rolled out in other Southern States. In Karnataka, the CII is engaging with the Directorate of Child Protection, and in Kerala, with the Department of Women and Child Development.
The CII is putting together a plan to work with the government to address the short and long-term needs of children in need of care and protection as a result of the pandemic.
IIMT Group of Colleges
The IIMT Group of Colleges, a chain of technology institutes with its campuses in Greater Noida and Meerut, has offered guardianship to 100 COVID orphans and plans to board them at their Meerut campus hostel where the students will be supported for their education till college.
The group runs a technology college in Greater Noida and a residential school and college facility in Meerut. The students whose guardianship IIMT might take will be boarded at their Meerut campus.
The Bal Kalyan Vibhag of the Uttar Pradesh government will first verify the children — all of whom are below 18 years — before allowing IIMT for guardianship.
“We will help at least 100 students who have lost parents due to Covid and studying in Class 3 and above. We will be boarding these students at our Meerut campus, which has a residential school for students in Class 3 onwards. We have received 35 direct queries and the state government has also forwarded us some names. There are two categories of students. One group only needs free education and does not require a boarding facility and another group that would be boarded on campus and will be supported till college to complete their education at our institutes,” said Sunil Sharma, a spokesperson of IIMT.
Sharma added, “The orphaned children will be taken on board after verification by the government, which will also check the progress of the children. We have already got a list of 65 students,” Sharma said.
Tata Steel has made a big announcement of social security schemes to the family members of employees affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The company has said in a statement, “If any of our employees dies due to corona, the family dependent on him will be paid salary till 60 years of age (i.e. retirement age of the concerned employee).
It has further added, “The company will also take care of the entire education of their children and such families will continue to get medical benefits and housing facilities. Tata Steel’s best-in-class social security schemes will help ensure an honourable standard of living for their families.”
In addition to this, for all its frontline employees who as part of their job, met with an unfortunate death due to COVID-19, the company said it will bear all the expenses of their children’s education till graduation in India.
“The Company has always been a shield of steel, supporting its stakeholders at all times. This time is no different. Tata Steel family stands stoically with all its people, committed to their security and well-being,” it said.
Unacademy has launched Educate India – an initiative supported by Feeding India, that aims to secure the future of children impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring their educational needs are met. The initiative seeks to support these children with resources to continue their education at these uncertain times. As part of the initiative, Unacademy will provide free 1-year subscriptions, worth ₹19 crores for up to 10,000 children and Feeding India will provide them with one year of free food support.
Unacademy, supported by Feeding India, has also invited the public to donate to the cause. The crowdsourced fund would be used to provide ICT devices, data connectivity for a year and stationery to help children excel in their studies. The initiative is a tribute to the Unacademy Educators who have lost their lives in the pandemic. The initiative will also include food assistance for the impacted children with Feeding India offering 1 year of support, either in the form of cooked meals or ration kits depending on the need.
IPS Pratap Dighavkar
Pratap Dighavkar, a former IPS officer, has come forward to help the COVID orphans by setting up a trust to support their education. Dighavkar, after hearing of a story of a young girl who lost her parents and is worried about her and her brother’s education, decided to take measures to help her and many other COVID orphans. He along with some of his friends have contributed themselves and secured support from three companies to form OVID Orphans Welfare Trust. The cop has said that they will gather details about all the children who have lost both their parents or the breadwinner of the family. They will open a bank account to store all the trust money and pay the fees to respective educational institutions from the same.