Orphaned during Covid and with 'nothing to eat': Five under-10-year siblings await help in MP

Sources in the village panchayat claim that their father and mother possibly died due to Covid-related complications.
Five siblings who lost their parents during the pandemic in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh were helped with food and clothes by the fellow villagers. (Photo | Express)
Five siblings who lost their parents during the pandemic in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh were helped with food and clothes by the fellow villagers. (Photo | Express)

BHOPAL: Five orphaned siblings in Bhind district are praying for some kind of assistance from the Madhya Pradesh government a little over seven months since they lost their father and five months after they lost their mother.

The three sisters and two brothers, all below 10 years of age, belong to the Valmiki caste that falls under the SC category and live in Amaha village. The missing ID cards and other documents have proven to be a hurdle for them when it comes to gaining assistance. 

The eldest daughter who is seven years of age said she lost her father Raghvendra Valmiki, an auto driver, in January and two months later their mother passed away in Orai.

Sources in the village panchayat claim that the couple died possibly due to Covid-related complications. Three months ago, Madhya Pradesh had become the first state in the country to announce a slew of welfare measures for children orphaned during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The five siblings have been living with their grandfather in a partially damaged hut close to the cremation ground since they were orphaned. In the event of rains, they are forced to take shelter under the tin shed.

"Our parents died during coronavirus. We have nothing to eat. Some villagers are helping us with food and milk. They also provided us with clothes. We are requesting the government to help us out," said the eldest daughter, who is taking care of all her siblings, including an eight-month-old infant. 

While confirming that the parents of the five siblings died during the COVID pandemic within a span of three months earlier this year, the village panchayat's secretary Ashok Parasar admitted that authorities were unable to secure any of the benefits announced for Covid orphans.

"They do not possess any valid ID or residential proof. Even we could not help them in time. It was only after local Congress MLA and former minister Dr Govind Singh spotted them during his recent visit to the village that the process has begun," Parasar said. 

"We have already got their aadhaar cards made and are in the process of preparing other documents. Dr Govind Singh has assured that the five siblings will receive all the benefits under the Below Poverty Line (BPL) schemes as soon as all the documents are ready," Parasar said.

According to informed sources, the ex-minister had given Rs 2000 to the kids recently and has asked the village sarpanch and secretary to release Rs 10,000 to each of the five siblings. Singh has also announced Rs 20,000 from his Local Area Development Fund to the orphaned kids. However, in the absence of a bank account, the monetary benefits could not be released. 

According to Bhind district collector Satish Kumar S, a team from the Women and Child Development department (WCD) had visited the village and completed the social and family survey. The team has also counseled the children's grandfather.

"We're also trying to shift the children to a proper home and evidence is being collected to figure out whether they are eligible to the benefits under the COVID orphans scheme," the Bhind district collector said.

Earlier this year in May, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan had announced a Rs 5000 monthly pension for COVID orphaned kids, besides free education and free ration every month.

On May 13, the CM had also declared that the surviving parent/guardian/kin tasked with taking care of the orphaned child will be given interest-free loans to start a business.

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