Parental debt burdens many children orphaned by COVID-19

NCPCR sought Supreme Court direction for deputy ministers to resolve issues with banks

NCPCR sought Supreme Court direction for deputy ministers to resolve issues with banks

Four siblings aged 1.5 to 14 who lost their mother and father in the brutal second wave of COVID-19 last year grapple with the prospect of losing their home to an unpaid loan bought by their parents.

They are twin brothers aged 18 months and two sisters aged nine and 14 from New Delhi who are cared for by three related families.

Their father had bought a home loan of ₹25 lakh and repaid nearly ₹7 lakh in monthly installments. A private bank that provided the loan has since the couple’s disappearance sent several notices asking for payment of the balance.

“They have threatened to foreclose on the house if the remaining EMIs are not paid. It is the only property the children own. The bank may consider forfeiting the loan through its corporate social responsibility fund or extending the deadline repayment until the children start earning money and are able to repay the loan,” says their paternal uncle, Mangat Singh Aswal.

The Gurgaon-based businessman is now looking after the two sisters. Of the twin brothers, one is with his paternal grandparent, and the other with a maternal aunt.

Mr Aswal is now considering moving the Delhi High Court to seek an order staying the bank’s attempt to seize the house.

Two underage girls from Ghaziabad, who lost both parents and paternal grandparents within weeks in April and May during the second wave of COVID-19 last year, are now living with their paternal aunt in Bareilly. Their parents had taken out a loan of ₹24 lakh to open a shop. While they refunded ₹8 lakh, an amount of ₹16 lakh has yet to be refunded.

“The bank asked me to start paying monthly installments of ₹30,000. But I only earn ₹30,000 per month as a schoolteacher,” says Mr. Rajesh Mishra, the paternal aunt’s husband. The couple have two sons, one of whom is working and the other is studying at a college.

“There is also their family home, as well as my father’s pension. We would like them to be transferred to the names of the two girls who need them the most. These assets must not fall into the hands of other members. family,” says Neetu Mishra, their paternal aunt.

The National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (NCPCR) recently reported to the Supreme Court on the issue of unsettled debts faced by orphaned children during COVID-19, who may lose property or family assets to the profit from the banks at a time when it could be a vital source of funding. support for education and other needs.

NCPCR urged court to order DMs to ‘take action regarding financial liabilities such as loans, mortgages, insurance premiums, etc. owed on these children’, liaise with bank on these issues and to ensure that the rights of children to family property left behind by deceased parents are protected. The NCPCR also wrote a letter to the chief secretaries of all states and union territories on March 16 with these recommendations. According to his estimates, there are 1,47,773 children who lost a parent and 10,600 others who were orphaned due to COVID-19 between April 1, 2020 and March 15, 2022. A Lancet study estimates that there has 19 lakh children in India who have lost primary caregivers (one or both custodial parents or grandparents) to COVID-19. Globally, of those who lost a parent to COVID-19, 76% were fatherless.

The South Delhi District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) handling the case of the four Delhi siblings, however, had no knowledge of the NCPCR’s advice.

“These are matters between the banks and the families involved. Only a Supreme Court or government order can make the difference,” said Varun Yadav, DCPO.

Until then, the direction of the NCPCR can also be applied, say legal experts. “Parents can approach the DMs and based on the letter from the NCPCR they can be asked to take action, and if they don’t comply the families can go to the High Court and complain about the failure DMs to comply with the direction of the NCPCR,” says Basawa Prasad Kunale of the Alternative Law Forum.

Neither the children in Delhi nor those in Ghaziabad have yet been enrolled under the Union Government’s PM Cares for Children program which offers free education in a public or private school, health insurance coverage of ₹5 lakh under PM Jan Aarogya Yojana, waiver of interest on loans taken for higher education, monthly stipend from age 18 and lump sum of ₹10 lakh when a child reaches the age of 23 years. The program is for those who have lost both parents or the only living parent to COVID-19.

“We have to run a lot to claim our rights. We first applied in Ghaziabad where the girls are from but we live in Bareilly. It is not possible for us to keep traveling to Ghaziabad to fulfill the formalities.We I want to apply again in Bareilly but the officials say we have to withdraw our application from Ghaziabad first.I work in Farrukhabad and my wife is looking after the two girls alone and it is not possible for her to run everywhere, says Mr. Mishra

Delhi’s family say they received the as a courtesy amount of ₹50,000 announced by Delhi government only after filing a complaint to NCPCR and has yet to be registered for the PM Cares scheme.


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John A. Bogar