The Supreme Court on Wednesday tore into the West Bengal government for providing “unrealistic” and “unreliable” figures of children being orphaned and abandoned in the State owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. The bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose rebuked the TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee led government for not uploading correct information of children who were orphaned during the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020.
It is pertinent to note here that the Mamata Banerjee government had submitted in the apex court that only 27 children were orphaned in the state during pandemic against all India reported figure of 6855. Calling it non-credible and unrealistic, the two-judge bench directed the Secretary of the Department of Women and Child Welfare, West Bengal to submit the correct particulars in the court.
The number was revealed in an affidavit filed by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in a suo moto petition before the Supreme Court for the identification and rehabilitation of children who lost one or both parents during the Covid-19 pandemic and needed care and protection.
The NCPCR stated that from April 1, 2020, to July 23, 2021, its special portal, Balswaraj, collected information on 6,855 orphans, 68,218 children who lost one parent, and 247 children who were abandoned as a result of the pandemic.
To this, the West Bengal government reported that only 27 children were orphaned during the pandemic while 1020 children lost one parent and only three were abandoned.
The obligation is yours and not ours: SC lambasted the West Bengal Govt for furnishing wrong particulars in court
The bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose said: “The information that is filtering to us does not appear to be credible and reliable. We are not prepared to believe this figure that in a big state like West Bengal, only 27 children were orphaned.”
Do not politicise the issue and shift blames: SC tears into West Bengal Govt
The top court went on to slam the Mamata Banerjee led government for politicising the issue and shifting the blame on the NCPCR. Justice Rao reprimanded the counsel for the State of West Bengal by saying: “Don’t you understand the gravity of this situation? Don’t take such a stand on what basis NCPCR is making such allegations. It’s not a political matter. The obligation is yours and not ours. You are under a constitutional obligation to provide relief to the children”.
When advocate Sayandeep Pahari appearing for the state government of WB said it was an ongoing exercise and there was no reason for NCPCR to doubt the state’s figures. The bench said, “If you are steadfast in saying 27 children became orphans in such a big state, we can order an enquiry from an outside agency.”
“We will record your statement that this is the truth and then order a separate investigation?”, lambasted the court at the counsel representing the WB government.
Following the upbraiding by the apex court, advocate Suhaan Mukherjee, also appearing for the state, urged to be provided with an opportunity to come back with updated figures.
Mamata Banerjee’s mismanagement and cover-ups during the Covid-19 pandemic
It is pertinent to note here that the Mamata Banerjee government has received harsh criticisms for the mismanagement of the Covid pandemic in the state. Be it for fudging coronavirus positive cases and death numbers or hiding data or secretly disposing of deceased coronavirus patients in special incinerators or under-testing. Be it siphoning off ration provided by the central govt during Covid related lockdown or the misuse of the funds provided by the central government against the COVID-19, Mamata Banerjee has been under the scanner since the start of the pandemic.