The newly elected Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, visited an orphanage to kickstart his five-year tenure. Sukhu has made it clear that the welfare of orphans and individuals without guardians is of utmost importance to him. As a result, the state government recently passed the Himachal Pradesh Sukhashraya (Care, Protection, and Self-Reliance of Children of the State) Act, 2023, which brings children under the legal protection of the state government.
Under this act, orphans and individuals with special needs will be recognized as ‘children of the state’ and provided with financial and institutional benefits from the age of 18 to 27 years. The state government will also offer vocational training, skill development, and coaching to help these children and adults become active members of society. The aim is to ensure that orphans do not have to rely on the generosity of others and that the state acts as their parents.
The definition of ‘orphans’ under the act includes those who do not have biological parents, whose parents have been medically proven to be incapable of taking care of them, or those relinquished by guardians or parents due to social, emotional, or physical factors. Children in need of care and protection, such as those without a home or working in contravention of labor laws, will also be given the same benefits. Additionally, the government will assist children at risk of early marriage, impacted by a crime, or vulnerable to drug abuse.
Over 6,000 such individuals have been identified as beneficiaries of the act. They will receive Rs 5,000 in the summer and winter to purchase clothing, as well as Rs 500 to celebrate major festivals. Orphans will be permitted to take a holiday within the state, and the government will cover train tickets and accommodation for up to 10 days in a 3-star hotel.
When these beneficiaries reach the age of majority, the government will provide a monthly allowance of Rs 4,000 for daily expenses in college. The government will also cover the hostel fees of those enrolled in ITI and other government colleges. Orphans wishing to start their own businesses will be given a token corpus to incentivize entrepreneurial pursuits. Ph.D. students will also be eligible for this allowance, and a fixed amount will be provided for marriage expenses.
The government will provide three biswas of land to each beneficiary to build their own homes. The Chief Minister has set up the Mukhya Mantri Sukhashraya Sahayata Kosh fund, worth Rs 101 crore, to support the act, and all MLAs have contributed Rs 1 lakh. The Chief Minister has also taken a pay cut from his salary to sponsor the fund.