While the Covid-19 pandemic that broke out two years ago has brought to the fore many moving instances of institutions and individuals helping in various ways those struck by the disease or hit by the lockdown, reaffirming the faith in the innate goodness of people, the difficult period has also, sadly, exposed the other end of the spectrum, where people do not flinch from seeing an opportunity in misery. Perhaps, the cruellest are those who seek to exploit the innocent and helpless children rendered orphans or without caregivers as the devastating waves wiped out lakhs of lives.
An investigation by a news organisation and subsequent probe by the authorities concerned in Jamp;K have led to the arrest of two accused, who, in the garb of running an NGO for children, were running a racket of adoption by sidestepping the law. The unsuspecting kids — procured through dubious means — were on offer for sale for Rs 75,000-1.75 lakh per child. Another agency in Delhi was also seen to be trading in children without paperwork. Such unscrupulous elements deserve the harshest punishment. After the second Covid wave in May, social media was flooded with details of orphaned kids and requests for adoption even as more than one lakh children had lost a parent to Covid-19 by then. Child rights activists and law enforcers had flagged the posts as illegal and possible cases of child trafficking. While the State is the guardian of the orphaned kids, it gives due weightage to kinship care — where some family members may be keen to keep the child — before rolling out the adoption process under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
With the pandemic still raging and a third wave looming, it is essential that a proper record of the affected children is kept to prevent them from falling prey to the big bad wolves lurking around. Due diligence and surveillance must be activated at the district level onwards to enable a foolproof intervention for the children in need of care and the adoptive parents eagerly waiting to welcome them into their fold.