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Court orders action on destitute widows

Even well-to-do women are left in holy city of Vrindavan

A widow in one of Vrindavan's shelters A widow in one of Vrindavan's shelters
  • ucnews.com reporter, Vrindavan
  • India
  • September 5, 2012
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India’s Supreme Court has slammed the Uttar Pradesh government and the national commission for women for failing to improve the condition of widows in the state.

"You don't care about women in Uttar Pradesh. They are not a priority for you," a two-member bench told them on September 3.

The judges singled out the widows who live in the holy city of Vrindavan in the state’s Mathura district and ordered the government to take steps to improve these women’s conditions. Abandoned by their families, they live in destitution, dependent on the alms they receive from singing hymns in the city’s temples.

Due to a lack of proper food, medical facilities and clean toilets, many of them  succumb to infection and diseases.

Vrindavan is one of the most revered places in the country, said to be the city of the Hindu god Lord Krishna. Widows from all parts of India are brought there by relatives and left to die, said Jagdish Prasad, a Hindu priest.

He estimated that around 3,000 elderly women are currently staying in shelters in the city, with numbers rising constantly.  He said they come because of the religious importance attached to Vrindavan. “Many women want to spend the last phase of their life praying to attain salvation,” he said.

Others are brought here because of poverty.  “After the death of a husband, nobody wants to take care of a widow and they leave them here,” said Prasad.

The women’s commission responded to the court’s demands by saying it would collaborate with NGO’s to build modern shelter homes.

Laxmi Gautam, who runs an NGO that offers help to the widows, told ucanews.com, “it hurts to see that even women from a good, well-to-do family are dumped in the shelters.”

She recalled a very recent case. “Yesterday, a 98-year-old women from a rich family in Mumbai was abandoned here by her son and daughter-in-law.”

Surender Sharma, a resident of the city, expressed doubts that the court’s instructions will be put into practice. “Our administrative system is so lax, I don’t foresee any improvement in conditions in the near future,” he said.

“The voluntary work by the social organizations is not enough. The monetary help given to these women by the government does not reach them because of the  corrupt system.”

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