Friday , September 24 2021

PM-CARES for Children: SC directs DMs to complete approval process so that benefit is extended

New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the district magistrates to complete the process of approval of applications for children, registered under the ”PM-CARES for Children” scheme, so that those who have lost their parents or legal guardian due to the COVID-19 pandemic could get the benefit.

The apex court came out with the direction after the Centre informed it that a separate portal has been created for the scheme and as on August 21 this year, 2,600 children have been registered on the portal by 30 states and Union Territories (UTs) and out of these, 418 applications have been approved by the district magistrates.


A bench of justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose, while stressing on the need to support the children who have lost their parents during the pandemic, said that education of such minors should continue without any disruption in the current academic year.


“At present, we direct the district magistrates to complete the process of approval of the remaining children whose names have been registered for benefit of the PM-CARES fund,” the bench said.


It said in case of necessity, the fee and other expenditure of children amongst 2,600 whose names have been registered for the scheme, shall be undertaken by the Centre.


“The state governments shall have a dialogue with the private schools to waive the fee for these students for the current academic year. In case, the schools are not willing to waive the fee, the state government shall bear the burden of the fee,” it said.


The bench said with regard to children whose names have been registered for the PM-CARES scheme, it is open to the states to request the Centre to bear the fee and other expenses of those children who are studying in private schools for the current academic year.


While hearing a suo motu matter on contagion of COVID-19 in children protection homes, the bench asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, who was appearing for the Centre, about the modalities of the ‘PM-CARES for Children’ scheme.


“We want to know who are the children who will be getting the benefit of PM-CARES,” the bench asked, adding that the immediate need is for making payment for education of these children who are studying in private schools.


Bhati told the bench that education of children till 18 years is a part of the PM-CARES scheme for support and empowerment of COVID-19 affected children.


The ASG said there are three categories under the scheme — those children who have lost both parents, those who have lost surviving parents and those who have lost their legal guardian or adoptive parents due to COVID-19 from March 11, 2020 till the end of the pandemic.


“Has there been identification of such children who will get the benefit,” the bench asked.


Bhati said for identification, the onus has been put on the district magistrates and they have been asked to take the assistance of Police, District Child Protection Units (DCPUs) and others.


The ASG said PM-CARES scheme covers five broad parameters and under this there will be fixed deposit in the name of the children, that is, a corpus of Rs 10 lakh will be created and monthly stipend will be given from the age of 18 to 23.


She said when the children will reach 23-year age, a lump sum amount would be given.


Bhati said the scheme provides for school education of children in the age group of up to 10 years and also between the age of 11 to 18 years.


She said children up to the age of 10 years would be admitted to nearby ‘Kendriya Vidyalaya’ or private school as day scholar and if he or she is admitted to private school, fee as per the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) norms would be given from the ”PM-CARES for Children” scheme.


She said it also provides for expenditure on uniform, textbooks and notebooks of these children and the scheme covers the aspect of higher education and health insurance as well.


The bench observed that at this stage, it is interested that education of these children should continue.


The apex court had last month observed that identification of children, who have become orphans or lost a parent during the pandemic from March last year, does not brook any further delay.


It had directed the states and UTs to file status reports giving particulars about the number of minors who have become orphan after March last year.


In its June 7 order, it had asked the states and UTs to ensure that there is no break in the education of such children in both private and government schools.


The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had earlier informed the top court that as many as 30,071 children were orphaned, lost a parent or abandoned mostly due to the pandemic as per the data provided by different states and UTs on the ‘Bal Swaraj’ portal till June 5.


The NCPCR had given the break up in its affidavit which said there were 3,621 orphans, 26,176 children who have lost one parent and 274 children who have been abandoned.


The apex court had earlier passed a slew of directions for care and protection of children who have become orphans or have lost one parent or abandoned during the pandemic.

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