The Odisha government has suddenly discontinued a special scheme 'Ashirbad' for children, who lost their parents to COVID-19, barely three and half months after its launch. The state government had on June 20 announced ₹2,500 a month for children, who lost both their parents, in the pandemic.
In a letter to all district collectors, the director of the Integrated Child Development scheme, Arvind Agrawal, said any children whose parent(s)/primary bread earner or any other person died due to COVID after September 15 would only be covered under existing Child Protection Scheme of the government and not under Ashirbad. Agrawal cited the 'declining trend' in COVID-19 cases behind the withdrawal of the scheme
Ashirbad scheme was announced by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in June this year to provide help in education, health and maintenance of the children orphaned due to the COVID pandemic. They would have ₹2500 deposited into the bank account of their family members every month till they turn 18. Children who had lost their parents on or after April 1, 2020, were supposed to be provided with monetary aid ranging between ₹ 1,500 and ₹ 2,500 per month under the scheme, besides other benefits.
Around 1,773 children lost their parents in Odisha to COVID since April 1, 2020, according to a report compiled by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). While 163 children lost both their parents, 1,610 children lost one of their parents since the outbreak of pandemic in Odisha.
According to the guidelines for the scheme, a child who has lost both or one parent is entitled to ₹ 2,500 per month, while a child who has lost a parent who was also the breadwinner for the family is entitled to ₹1,500 per month.
Besides, if any child stays in a childcare institution instead of staying with a relative, an amount of ₹ 1,000 is deposited in a bank account in his / her name as a recurring deposit till she/ he doesn't attain the age of 18. His / her needs like food, education and health are taken care of by the institution.
During the launch, Patnaik said, "The State government is committed to providing a safe environment for holistic development of these children who need special care of society."