National

Plight of Vrindavan widows

A year after reports first emerged of the plight of widows, mainly from U. P., Odisha and West Bengal, abandoned by their families and left at Vrindavan ashrams, Sulabh International was chosen by the Supreme Court to provide help to these women. The women were paid a one-time sum of Rs 500 and a daily grant of Rs 25 for food was promised. While 1,789 women in the four government-run ashrams benefitted, efforts are being made to provide health and shelter facilities for the others.

The women survive on a pittance earned by performing bhajans and keertans in the Vrindavan temples. Younger widows are often made a part of the sevadasi system and are exploited by priests and pilgrims. Due to lack of basic necessities and no one to claim the dead, their last rites are completed shockingly by giving their bodies to sweepers to chop them up, stuff them into jute bags which are then thrown into the river.

It is sad that the state governments needed prodding from the Supreme Court to fulfill their basic responsibilities in accordance with the Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act of 2007. The series of events were set in motion when the National Legal Services Authority acted on a media report.

Sulabh International is currently in talks with the Central and the state governments as well as corporate houses to help better the situation. An electric crematorium will be set-up with Sulabh International and the local authorities coming together to raise funds for it.
Aaliya Khan

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 September 2012 on page no. 4

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