Lending helping hands to children and adolescents orphaned by the raging pandemic, the Odisha government on Sunday announced the monthly assistance to the hapless kids and teens by launching ‘Ashirbad’ social security scheme.

Announcing the launch of the scheme, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said “Rs 2500 per month will be provided to the children who have lost both parents/single parent and Rs 1500 per month to those who have lost earning parent due to COVID-19 on or after April 1, 2020”.

The amount will be transferred to the bank accounts of the guardians/ caretakers of the orphans till they attain the age of 18 years by direct transfer mode. However, the social security fiscal aid will not be applicable in case the child is adopted by someone, a release issued by the Chief Minister’s office said.

It is pertinent to note here that as many as 46 children have lost both their parents to Covid-19 pandemic in Odisha while 246 more kids have been left to fend themselves with their parents dying of non-Covid diseases since the outbreak of Coronavirus health crisis in March last year.

Besides 970 more children have lost one their parents. Of them, 370 kids lost either their father or mother to COVID-19 while one of the parents of 570 children died of non-covid health issues, officials of the women and child welfare department said.

The Chief Minister Patnaik has in the meantime issued directives to the district administrations to identify parents-less children on priority basis and include them in the Madhubabu Pension Scheme immediately. He has also directed payment of a three-month pension in advance to these children.

The ‘Ashirbad’ beneficiaries will be included under the state government’s Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana for availing free medical services, and Central/ State Food Security scheme.

The state government will facilitate continuation of their education at their respective schools. If required, assistance will be provided for studying in Adarsh Vidyalayas and Central Schools, the CMO release said.

The children will be assisted for higher education under the Green Passage scheme of the state government. Pucca houses under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana/ Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana and benefits under other government schemes will be approved to the guardians/ caretakers on priority basis.

The orphaned children who stay at childcare institutions will get an amount of Rs 1,000 every month. The sum will be deposited in their bank account as recurring deposit till they attain 18 years of age.

For those who have lost their earning parent, Rs 1500 per month will be transferred to the bank account of their surviving parent till they attain 18 years of age. The assistance will not be provided in the case of adoption. Mothers of such children, if eligible for Madhu Babu Pension Scheme, will be provided pension.

The district child protection units, Childline, block and panchayat level committees and frontline workers will identify the children and prepare a list. The guardians/ caretakers can also approach district child protection units with death certificates to avail benefit under the scheme, the release added.

It may be recalled here that the BJP MLAs had drawn the attention of Chief Minister Patnaik yesterday on the plight of the children orphaned by the pandemic.

“Uncertain future stares at the children and adolescents who are orphaned with the death of their parents. The number of children orphaned by the pandemic is yet to be meticulously recorded and there is every possibility of orphans being left out from government’s security coverage due to death under-reporting”, the BJP MLAs alleged in a letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.