Arati, 30, of Lower Badhera village in Una district of Himachal Pradesh, was dealt a body blow last year. There were four deaths among her close relations — all due to Covid-19 and all in the month of May. This also meant she had to take care of two children — Aryan Choudhary, 16, and Suman Preet, 15 — of her uncle. Both of them were in Class 10 while her own two little daughters were in Class 2 and LKG respectively.
Since both Aryan and Suman Preet were Covid orphans — their mother Anju Devi died of Covid last year and their father Kuldeep Chand had died of heart attack in 2018 — financial aid poured in quickly from the PM Cares for Children.
“Rs 50,000 each was given as ex-gratia grant. Rs 2,500 each is being given per month — Rs 2,000 in cash and Rs 500 in fixed deposit. Rs 1,000 per month for pocket money will be given till they attain the age of 18 years. Rs 8,000 will be paid every year for books and stationery till they become major. When they turn 18, they will also get a fixed deposit of Rs 10 lakh each for higher studies,” says Kamaldeep Singh, District Child Protection Officer.
However, financial worries were not over for Arati as she soon discovered that the parents of Aryan and Suman Preet had to repay the local cooperative society a loan of Rs 1.83 lakh. This was another blow.
“My uncle was a halwai. He had taken a loan. After he passed away, my aunty took another loan. The total loan amount stood at Rs 1.83 lakh. I didn’t know how to repay it. I was all at sea,” says Arati.
More financial aid poured in for Arati on September 6 when Rs 1.83 lakh was credited into the bank account of the cooperative society. “On Tuesday, we got the principal amount from the Chintpurani temple trust headed by the Deputy Commissioner. On our part, we have waived an interest of Rs 83,750,” says Anita Rana, secretary of Badhera Cooperative Agriculture Service Society Limited.
Under the PM Cares for Children, the Covid orphans are put under the guardianship of District Magistrates. “There were four such kids who lost thier parents to Covid in our district. I have been meeting them regularly. I came to know two of them had a loan liability as well. So, I wrote to the cooperative society to waive the loan interest and assured them that we’ll pay the principal amount. They agreed to the proposal,” says Deputy Commissioner Raghav Sharma.
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The present has become pleasant now for Arati and her children. “I want to thank DC sahib. Sarkar bachchon ka har tarah se dhyan rakh rahi hai (The government is taking care of the kids in every possible way),” says Arati.