The Centre has issued an advisory to States and Union Territories to take immediate steps for the protection of vulnerable sections of society including women, senior citizens and children who have been orphaned due to COVID-19 pandemic.

In its advisory, Home Ministry said, several States and UTs have initiated action and strengthened their machineries to support the vulnerable groups and various success stories and best practices are now available where emergency services have been provided to the vulnerable groups impacted by COVID-19.

However, in order to meet the new challenges arising out of the recent wave of COVID-19, the Ministry has urged to undertake an immediate review of the existing facilities for vulnerable groups especially for children who have been orphaned, senior citizens who may require timely assistance and members of SC and ST communities who may need guidance to access Government support facilities.

It has asked that the review may include steps taken for sensitization of police personnel, coordination with agencies and departments concerned as well as communities and civil society organizations.

In its advisory, the Ministry also cited over 107 crore rupees released to States and UTs for setting up and strengthening Women Help Desks in Police Stations.

The Desk envisages to have enlisted panel of experts including lawyers, psychologists and NGOs who can assist in accessing support, provide shelter and rehabilitation and help in registration and follow-up in the cases.

In order to address issues related to trafficking, 100 crore has also been released as grants to the States Union Territories to set up and strengthen Anti- Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) in every District.

These AHTUs would be integrated task forces, consisting of police and other line departments dealing with prevention and combating trafficking.

The advisory added that these units are highly relevant, especially in the current COVID-19 pandemic where children may have been orphaned due to demise of their parents.

States and Union Territories have been asked to put in place suitable mechanisms for ensuring greater awareness on the anti-trafficking.

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