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New Delhi: At least 645 children were orphaned after they lost their parents to covid-19 between April and May, government data showed Thursday.

The maximum number of such cases were reported from Uttar Pradesh (158), followed by Andhra Pradesh (119) and Maharashtra (83).

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has asked States and UTs to take immediate action for care and protection of children hit by covid-19, in accordance with the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and Rules, while leveraging the facilities under the child protection services scheme, Minister Smriti Irani said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

The ministry also issued advisories and guidelines for encouraging covid appropriate behaviour, monitoring child care institutions, and coping strategies for mental health support to children and caregivers, the minister told Parliament.

While several states are supporting children orphaned during the pandemic, the central government earlier in May had announced 10 lakh fixed deposit, free health insurance and education for children who have lost both parents or surviving parent or legal guardian/adoptive parents due to covid-19. The support will be provided under ‘PM-CARES for Children’ scheme.

The government had announced that all such children will be enrolled as a beneficiary under Ayushman Bharat Scheme (PM-JAY) with a health insurance cover of Rs. 5 lakhs. The premium amount for these children till the age of 18 years will be paid by PM CARES. Also, the fund will support their studies till higher education. The government also launched a fixed deposit in the name of the child. PM CARES will contribute through a specially designed scheme to create a corpus of 10 lakh for each child when he or she reaches 18 years of age.

This corpus will be used to give a monthly financial support/ stipend from 18 years of age, for the next five years to take care of his or her personal requirements during the period of higher education and on reaching the age of 23 years, he or she will get the corpus amount as one lump-sum for personal and professional use, the Prime Minister Office said in a statement.

Under the scheme, school education will be supported for children under 10 years of age. “The child will be given admission in the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar. If the child is admitted in a private school, the fees as per the RTE norms will be given from the PM CARES. PM-CARES will also pay for expenditure on uniform, textbooks and notebooks," the Prime Minister Office had said in a statement.

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