Focus: GS II- Government Policies and Intervention
Why in News?
Prime Minister released benefits under PM CARES for Children Scheme.
About PM CARES For Children scheme:
- Prime Minister had announced comprehensive support for children who have lost both their parents due to COVID 19 pandemic.
- The objective of the scheme is to ensure comprehensive care and protection of children who have lost their parent(s) to COVID pandemic, in a sustained manner, enable their wellbeing through health insurance, empower them through education and equip them for self-sufficient existence with financial support on reaching 23 years of age.
- The PM CARES for children scheme inter alia provides support to these children through convergent approach, gap funding for ensuring education, health, monthly stipend from the age of 18 years, and lump sum amount of Rs. 10 lakh on attaining 23 years of age.
- The Scheme is expected to continue till the year when every identified beneficiary shall turn 23 years of age.
- The eligibility criterion for the scheme will cover all children who have lost i) Both parents or ii) Surviving parent or iii) legal guardian/adoptive parents/single adoptive parent due to COVID 19 pandemic, starting from 11.03.2020 the date on which WHO has declared and characterized COVID-19 as pandemic till 31.12.2021, shall be entitled to benefits under this scheme. iv) Child should not have completed 18 years of age on the date of death of parents
- Child should not have completed 18 years of age on the date of death of parents
The Entitlements under the scheme include:
i. Support for Boarding and Lodging:
- Efforts will be made by the District Magistrate with the assistance of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) to explore the possibility of rehabilitating the child within her/his extended family, relatives, kith, or kin.
- If the extended family, relatives, kith or kin of the child are not available/not willing/not found fit by CWC or the child (aged 4 -10 years or above) is not willing to live with them, the child should be placed in foster care, after due diligence as prescribed under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and rules made thereof as amended from time to time.
- If the Foster family is not available/not willing /not found fit by CWC, or the child (aged 4 -10 years or above) is not willing to live with them, the child 1Beneficiary/ Beneficiaries means eligible child beneficiaries under the PM CARES for Children Scheme. 3 should be placed in age appropriate and gender appropriate Child Care Institution (CCI).
- Children more than 10 years old, not received by extended families or relatives or foster families or not willing to live with them or living in child care institutions after the demise of parents, may be enrolled in Netaji Subhash Chand Bose Awasiya Vidyalaya, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Eklavya Model Schools, Sainik School, Navodaya Vidyalaya, or any other residential school by the District Magistrate, subject to the respective scheme guidelines.
- It may be ensured that the siblings stay together, as far as possible.
- For non-institutional care, financial support at the prevailing rates prescribed under the Child Protection Services (CPS) Scheme shall be provided to Children (in account with guardian). For child in institutional care, a maintenance grant at the prevailing rates prescribed under the Child Protection Services (CPS) Scheme shall be given to Child Care Institutions. Any provision for subsistence support under the State scheme may also be provided additionally to the children.
ii. Assistance for Pre-school and School Education
- For children below 6 years of age Identified beneficiaries will receive support and assistance from the Anganwadi services for supplementary nutrition, pre-school education/ ECCE, immunization, health referrals, and health check-up.
- For children below 10 years of age
- Admission shall be provided in any nearest school as a day scholar i.e. Government/ Government aided School/ Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs)/ Private Schools.
- In Government Schools, two sets of free uniform and textbooks shall be provided, under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, as per the scheme guidelines.
- In private schools, tuition fees shall be exempted under section 12(1)(c) of RTE Act.
- Under circumstances where child is unable to receive above benefits, the fees, as per the RTE norms, will be given from the PM CARES for Children scheme. The Scheme will also pay for expenditure on uniform, textbooks, and notebooks. A matrix of such entitlements is detailed out in Annexure-1.
- For children between 11-18 years of age
- If the child is living with the extended family, then admission in the nearest Government/ Government aided School/ Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs)/ Private Schools as a day scholar may be ensured by the DM.
- The child may be enrolled in Netaji Subhash Chand Bose Awasiya Vidyalaya/ Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya/ Eklavya Model Schools/Sainik School/ Navodaya Vidyalaya/ or any other residential school, by the DM, subject to the respective scheme guidelines.
- The DM may make alternative arrangements for accommodation of such children during vacations at CCIs or any appropriate place.
- Under circumstances where child is unable to receive above benefits, the fees, as per the RTE norms, will be given from the PM CARES for Children scheme. The scheme will also pay for expenditure on uniform, textbooks, and notebooks. A matrix of such entitlements is detailed out in the detailed annexure.
- Assistance for Higher Education:
- The child will be assisted in obtaining education loan for Professional courses /Higher Education in India
- Under circumstances where beneficiary is unable to avail interest exemption from extant Central and State Government scheme, then the interest on the educational loan will be paid from PM CARES for Children Scheme.
- As an alternative, scholarship as per the norms will be provided to the beneficiaries of the PM CARES for Children Scheme from the schemes of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Ministry of Minority Affairs, and Department of Higher Education. Beneficiaries will be assisted through National Scholarship portal for availing such entitlements. The scholarship awarded to the beneficiaries will be updated on the PM CARES for Children portal.
iii. Health Insurance:
- All children will be enrolled as a beneficiary under Ayushman Bharat Scheme (PM-JAY) with a health insurance cover of Rs. 5 lakhs.
- It shall be ensured that the child identified under PM CARES for Children scheme receives benefits under PM JAY
- The details of benefits available to children under the scheme are at Annexure.
iv. Financial Support:
- The lump sum amount will be transferred directly in the post office account of beneficiaries upon opening and validation of the account of the beneficiaries. A pro-rata amount will be credited upfront in the account of each identified beneficiary such that the corpus for each beneficiary becomes Rs. 10 lakhs at the time of attaining 18 years of age.
- Children will receive monthly stipend once they attain 18 years of age, by investing the corpus of Rs 10 lakhs. The beneficiary will receive stipend till they attain 23 years of age.
- They will receive an amount of Rs. 10 lakh on attaining 23 years of age.
About PM CARES – Fund
- The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) was created on 28 March 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
- The fund will be used for combating, and containment and relief efforts against the coronavirus outbreak and similar pandemic like situations in the future.
- Although the documentation for the constitution of the fund has not been made public, the Government of India has stated that the Prime Minister of India is the chairman of the fund, and that trustees include the Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance in the Government of India.
- The PM CARES Fund has faced criticism for the lack of transparency and accountability in relation to its establishment, functioning, and accounts.
- The total amount of funds donated and the names of donors have not been publicly disclosed, and the fund is privately audited.
- The Government of India has initially claimed that the fund is a private fund, and denied that the PM CARES Fund is a public fund for the purposes of transparency laws such as the Right to Information Act 2005, even though the Fund uses government infrastructure and the national emblem of the Government of India.
- In December 2020, the Government of India reversed its stance and admitted that the PM CARES Fund was a public fund, but still refused to disclose information regarding it under the Right to Information Act 2005.
- There are currently several ongoing cases at the Supreme Court of India and several High Courts in relation to the Fund.