ANANTAPUR : When the State government announced a monthly aid of Rs 500 for children who lost one parent to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it seemed like a blessing to those who were clueless about the future after losing their loved one. However, 13 months later, around 571 children in the erstwhile Anantapur district alone are yet to receive the money. Children below 18 years of age who lost one parent to Covid are eligible for the aid.
As per data available with Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) officials, as many as 668 children (semi-orphans) were identified and their applications were taken. Of the total, 122 were below five years old, 231 in the 6-10 years age group, 247 in 11-15 years age group, while 68 were between 16 and 18 years old. ICDS authorities uploaded their details as per the prescribed format. The entire process was completed in June and July last year.
The district collector also gave approval to the final list consisting details of 571 semi-orphans. Although the State government had on paper sanctioned a budget of Rs 17 lakh for extending assistance to the semi-orphans, the bills put forth by the district authorities in September last year were returned as the “budget was not released.” The delay in the payment of the promised monthly aid to these children is being criticised. “Others might feel that it is a very small amount, but it would have helped us a lot,” Aruna from Anantapur rural mandal expressed.
Her husband, Siva Murali used to work at a temple and was the sole breadwinner in the family. She has a 14-year-old daughter and a baby boy, who was just one month old when she lost her husband. There are many women like Aruna, who have been waiting for the aid. Several were also new mothers when they lost their husbands. As a result they could not leave their children at home to make a living.
A native of Sanapa village in Atmakur mandal, Varalakshmi rued, “When I lost my husband, Shankaraiah, my daughter was just four months old and son was 12. I could not leave them alone at home to find work. At the time, Rs 500 per month for my children seemed like a blessing. But unfortunately, we are yet to receive even a single paise.” If the government would have released the money, each of the 571 children would have received Rs 6,500 over the last 13 months (September 2021-October 2022). The total amount due to the district is Rs 37,11,500.