THE YOUNG SURVIVORS
India Today|June 21, 2021
On April 8, Deepak Solanki, resident of Bagratawa, a village in Madhya Pradesh’s Hoshangabad district, tested positive for the coronavirus. Two days earlier, Solanki and his wife Anita developed a fever and other flu-like symptoms, but they thought it was likely just about of common flu—it hadn’t yet sunk in that Covid was no longer the urban phenomenon they imagined it to be. However, an RT-PCR test, done on the insistence of Deepak, 45, a district medical representative, proved otherwise. Deepak was admitted to a private medical facility the same day and Anita two days later. Their children—two daughters, aged 18 and 15, and a son, 12—were left in the care of their nephew Shrikant Solanki. All three children, too, had tested positive.
Rahul Noronha

Over the next week, Solanki’s situation deteriorated steadily and he died on April 20. The children had barely had any time to process their father’s death, when, on May 1, they got the news of their mother’s passing. In a matter of a few weeks, their world had come crashing down. The eldest daughter, a first-year college student, was left with the task of taking care of her younger, school-going siblings. Nothing had ever prepared them for this. The Solankis did not leave behind any cultivable land or major assets. The children currently remain in the care of Shrikant Solanki, who runs a small shop in Bagratawa and is a father of two.

“Once reports of children orphaned by Covid started pouring in, we activated our network of anganwadi workers to identify and collect information on them,” says Dhananjay Bhadoria, district magistrate, Hoshangabad. “The Solanki children have been registered under the newly announced Mukhyamantri Covid-19 Bal Kalyan Yojana.”

The staggering national Covid death toll of 354,000 and counting has created a war-like situation—like war orphans, there are now Covid orphans. An affidavit filed in the Supreme Court by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) records that 3,621 children were orphaned between April 1 and June 5. Another 26,176 children had lost one parent and 274 were abandoned. The NCPCR, however, clarified that the parent deaths recorded in its affidavit were not just related to Covid.

AS PER THE NCPCR, 3,621 CHILDREN WERE ORPHANED BETWEEN APRIL 1 AND JUNE 5; 26,176 LOST ONE PARENT; AND 274 WERE ABANDONED

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