In the latest advisory, the MHA said that while many states/UTs had initiated suitable action and strengthened their systems to secure vulnerable groups as per advisories issued by MHA since the outbreak of the pandemic, a fresh review of such facilities was required to meet the new challenges arising out of the recent Covid surge. The review, it said, must focus on children who have been orphaned, senior citizens who may require timely medical help and security and scheduled castes/ scheduled tribes who need guidance to access government support facilities.
“The review may include steps taken for sensitization of police personnel, coordination with agencies/ departments concerned as also communities and civil society organizations,” said the advisory sent by MHA’s women safety division to the chief secretaries or administrators of all states and Union territories.
The MHA cited five advisories it sent over the past year to states/UT and another issued by the ministry of social justice, to emphasise that the Central government had taken cognisance of the possible impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable groups, long ago. Giving high priority to their protection, it had been requesting the states and UTs to put in place adequate mechanisms for ensuring that the vulnerable groups get dedicated support and assistance in a timely manner.
The past advisories include one dated July 29, 2020, in which MHA shared guidelines and SOPs for preventing and combating crimes against weaker sections; a social justice ministry advisory for protection of transgenders from Covid-19; advisories dated July 6, 2020, and December 1, 2020, on prevention and countering of human trafficking at the state level, given that women and children affected by the pandemic could be trapped by traffickers with false promises of jobs and income.
The latest advisory from the MHA notes that the Centre had released Rs 107 crore to the states/UTs for setting up and strengthening women help desks in police stations.
The ministry recalled that it had circulated guidelines and SOPs for supporting senior citizens during Covid-19. The social justice ministry too issued an advisory for transgender persons on how to protect themselves during Covid-19. To address issues related to trafficking, Rs100 crore was released by the Centre as grants to the states/UTs to set up or strengthen anti-human trafficking units (AHTUs) in every district.