Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday chaired a meeting to discuss steps which can be taken to support children who have lost their parents due to COVID-19, and announced a series of measures, including ensuring free education for such children.
"All children who have lost both parents or surviving parent or legal guardian/adoptive parents due to COVID-19 will be supported under 'PM-CARES for Children' scheme," a release from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said.
While announcing these measures, the prime minister emphasised that children represent the future of the country and the country will do everything possible to support and protect the children so that they develop as strong citizens and have a bright future.
PM-CARES will contribute through a specially designed scheme to create a corpus of Rs 10 lakh for each child when he or she reaches 18 years of age. This corpus will be used to give a monthly financial support/stipend from 18 years of age, for the next five years to take care of their personal requirements during the period of higher education.
"On reaching the age of 23 years, he or she will get the corpus amount as one lump-sum for personal and professional use," the release said.
Children up to 10 years of age will be given admission in the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar. "If the child is admitted in a private school, the fees as per the RTE norms will be given from the PM CARES," the release said, adding it will also pay for expenditure on uniform, text books and notebooks.
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Children in 11-18 years age group will be given admission in any Central government residential school such as Sainik School, Navodaya Vidyalaya, among others. In case the child is to be continued under the care of guardian/ grandparents/ extended family, then he or she will be given admission in the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar.
"The child will be assisted in obtaining education loan for professional courses/higher education in India as per the existing education loan norms. The interest on this loan will be paid by the PM CARES," it said.
As an alternative, scholarship equivalent to the tuition fees/course fees for undergraduate/vocational courses as per government norms will be provided to such children under Central or state government Schemes. For children who are not eligible under the existing scholarship schemes, PM-CARES will provide an equivalent scholarship.
Besides, the children will also be enrolled as a beneficiary under Ayushman Bharat Scheme (PM-JAY) with a health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh. The premium amount for these children till the age of 18 years will be paid by PM CARES.