The covid-19 pandemic has brought children to the cynosure and leads significant government focus to their cause, be it in the education sector, health and well-being etc. But the pertinent focus has been on orphaned children whose both parents or anyone parent succumbed to covid-19. This issue has been taken up well by the Odisha Government through its Aashirwad scheme since April 2020. The state government has taken upon itself the onus to provide a conducive and safe environment for the holistic development of these children who lost their parents to a pandemic and require special care of the society. Under this scheme, the beneficiaries are transferred a monthly amount of ₹ 2500 or ₹ 1500 depending upon if the child has lost both or one parent. The education, medical facilities for higher studies are covered under various government schemes that these children are now entitled to, like food security schemes, Biju Swasthya Yojana, Green Passage, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana etc.
Such an approach by any government is laudable as children form a significant part of the dependent population and are the future assets of the country. Thus, quality investment in them is bound to yield future benefits in the form of contribution to the economy or being responsible citizens of the society.
At the time of this catastrophe, such orphaned children or a child who lost their earning parent is more vulnerable to societal evils and criminal practices to sustain their livelihood. Hence, it behoves the government to shift a considerable focus towards these children and formulate targeted policies for them. Therefore the first step towards this is the identification of these children. This cannot be done without the involvement of local communities; thus, a decentralised approach needs to be followed. Again the Odisha law can serve as an example where the government works in sync with the district child protection unit, childline, a voluntary organisation, Panchayat level committee and block-level committee in coordination with frontline civil society organisations to help identify the children.
But what about the underprivileged children?
These children are the most affected due to the covid epidemic. Their overlapping identities in the form of low economic status and cast difference discriminates them further in their already vulnerable situation. Therefore, any policy about children should lay a particular focus on this section of the society and formulate sub-specific guidelines under the primary policy for these groups. Though the Odisha scheme divides children into three categories to provide specific benefits, there is still a policy gap to target marginalised groups.
Undoubtedly, this Odisha government’s Aashirwad Scheme exemplifies good governance as it recognises children as entities entitled to government schemes and resources. It is an example that manifests that effective management takes every member into its ambit.
The success of this law will be outcome-driven and will be better understood in the long term. But to make this law more effective and nuanced, the government needs to further build upon the ways to cover the underprivileged children. Only then can such a policy bring about excellent outcomes and be an example of a success story to inspire similar governance matters.
(Ms. Tanvi Singal is currently majoring in Political Science and Economics from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi, India. Her areas of interest lie in International Relations and Foreign Policy. )