THE estimate that over 19 lakh children in India lost a parent or caregiver to COVID, made in a study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, a UK-based, peer-reviewed medical journal, has been questioned by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development [WCD Ministry] and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights [NCPCR].
On the other hand, as per data with the WCD Ministry from its Baal Swaraj (COVID-Care) portal that was analysed by The Print, 1,53,827 children were either orphaned, lost a single parent, or were abandoned during the COVID pandemic. This figure is only eight per cent of the number of such children estimated by the Lancet study, which is 19,17,100.
The Bal Swaraj (COVID-Care) portal was created by NCPCR in May last year “for online tracking and digital real time monitoring mechanism of children who are in need of care and protection”, and “for tracking children who have lost both its parents or either of the parent during COVID-19”, as per a press release by the Press Bureau of India. Data in this portal is filled up by officials from district child welfare committees and state commissions for protection of child rights. In an order dated May 28 last year, the Supreme Court had directed district authorities to upload data about such children on the portal expeditiously.
NCPCR Chairperson Priyank Kanoongo has issued a notice to Lancet, asking it to “share the foundation for their data”, as per the New Indian Express.