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- Sulabh dons the mantle of Good Samaritan to save Vrindavan Widows
- Vrindavan Holi – March 24-25, 2013
- Vrindavan Rejuvenating – February 24, 2013
- Vrindavan Revisited – August 20-23, 2012
- Widows at Vrindavan celebrate diwali for the first time, breaking away from oppressive traditions
The National Legal Services Authority which had filed social justice litigation before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India for protection and amelioration of the different problems faced by a large number of old destitute widows, informed the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation that the Hon’ble Supreme court before whom the matter came up, asked them to enquire whether Sulabh International Social Service Organisation was willing to make arrangements for supply of food to the destitute women living in different homes at Vrindavan. The National Legal Services Authority also listed the following homes run by the Government and the different NGOs where the widows live:
(i) Mahila Ashray Sadan at Ramanuj Nagar
(ii) Mahila Ashray Sadan-I at Chaitanya Vihar, Phase-II
(iii) Mahila Ashray Sadan-II at Chaitanya Vihar, Phase-II
(iv) Meera Sahbhagini Kendra (established by Govt. of U.P.)
(v) All Indian Women’s Conference (Taraash Mandir) and
(vi) Amar Badi now Ma-Dham
In pursuance of the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court conveyed by the Authority, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder, Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement alongwith a team of social workers of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation visited these homes twice, first on 11th and 12th August, 2012 and again from 20th to 23rd August, 2012.
The two Ashrams visited during the first visit on August 11 and 12 were Mahila Ashray Sadan-I at Chaitanya Vihar Phase-II and Sadan-II in the same locality.
The Ashrams visited during the second visit (August 20 to 23) were Taraash Mandir, Meera Sahbhagini Kendra, Mahila Ashray Sadan at Ramanuj Nagar, Mahila Ashray Sadan-II at Chaitanya Vihar Phase-II and Ma-Dham.
The widows residing in Ma-Dham numbering 95 did not require any financial help for food. Therefore excluding Ma-Dham the total number of inmates comes to 552 to whom financial help for food was given first as one time amount of Rs. 500 each, with an announcement for regular payment of Rs. 25 per day to each widow.
1. Mahila Ashray Sadan at Ramanuj Nagar is being run by an NGO, Akhil Bhartiya Maa Sharda Samaj Kalyan Samiti. Sixty two inmates reside in this Ashram. This Ashram is located in rented building and funded by Government under Swadhar scheme. However, there is considerable delay in payment of rent. For the last 3 years the organisation has not received rent for this building.
Its total capacity is for 62 persons, it is fully occupied. 32 widows receive widows’ pension whereas 30 get old age pension.
(However, payment of pension is not regular, at times there is delay of even six months in payment of pension)
Food money is supposed to be paid. But no such payment has been made for the last three years. All the 62 ladies have ration cards.
2. Mahila Ashray Sadan-I at Chaitanya Vihar – Phase-II is being run by an NGO named Action Plan Samiti. Against a capacity of 250 171 widows of different age groups including unmarried women and a disabled girl live in this Ashram. There is no timely and regular payment of pension and food allowances by the State Govt.
The inmates are paid Rs. 5 per shift for singing bhajans in temples.
For want of adequate money, most of these people survive with tea, biscuits and some snacks only. The incumbents do have ration cards. However, the aged and sick women who are entrusted with cooking the food find it very difficult to do. A nurse has been appointed for their healthcare; but no proper medical facilities are available. Most of these ladies suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes and other perennial health problems.
Out of 171 persons, widows are 160 and unmarried ladies are 11.
69 widows get widows’ pension while 68 get old-age pension. Two are given Mahamaya pension. All get food money.
3. Mahila Ashray Sadan-II at Chaitanya Vihar – Phase-II is being run by an NGO named Matiri. There are 152 widows living in this Ashram against a total capacity of 250, all the inmates possess ration cards. Food is served only once during the day from Akshya Patra programme and in the evening they cook themselves.
12 widows get widows’ pension, 4 old-age pension and 36 Mahamaya pension. 124 widows get food money.
4. Meera Sahbhagini Kendra is run by the UP Government. There are 135 widows in this Ashram which is its total capacity as well. This is being run in a rented building mostly dilapidated and the inmates are forced to sleep in an open Hall (three sides open)
40 widows get widows’ pension, 73 old-age pension and 27 Mahamaya pension. All have ration cards and get food money.
The elderly women particularly those above 75 years of age face problems in cooking. During course of the visit to this Ashram the Sulabh team met a lady 110 years old. The pension is paid once in six months or even in a year.
To meet daily requirements, they join Bhajan Ashram twice a day and get Rs. 10 per day.
Since these are being run by the State Government, there is considerable scope for improvement in the existing arrangements. The dilapidated condition of the building shows that it has not received due attention of the officials of the State Government who are In-charge of this Ashram.
5. Taraash Mandir Mahila Ashram is being managed by All India Women Conference in a rented building. Thirty widows reside in this Ashram. They are above 60 years of age, all of these get pension, all have ration cards.
6. Ma-Dham – Ashram is being run by Guild of Service, a voluntary organisation. The 95 widows living in this Ashram get food and healthcare facilities etc. The inmates of the Ashram are not allowed to beg or participate in Bhajans for livelihood. They do Bhajans in the campus itself. It has a total capacity of 200.
6 widows get widows’ pension and 50, old-age pension. All have ration cards.
Thus, the total number of the inmates is 552 and each of them was paid Rs. 1000 for their food by Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, they will continue to be paid Rs. 1000 on the 5th of every month. In the sixth Ashram namely Ma-Dham the list was not provided to Sulabh because they did not require any help for food.
Sulabh also organized community meals on all the six days the team was there alongwith volunteers of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation for all these widows. Apart from this, a team of Doctors conducted the medical check-up of the inmates living in the homes mentioned above.
There is lack of medical facilities for the widows. Besides, the water in the area is very salty and hardly fit to drink.
Sulabh has requested National Legal Services Authority to seek permission from the Hon’ble Supreme Court to allow Sulabh i) to provide four ambulances and a doctor at Vrindavan, ii) to provide a fresh water boring, iii) to provide inverters where required since there is acute power shortage, iv) to examine feasibility and usefulness of opening vocational training centres, v) to help in cremation of dead bodies in proper manner and vi) to provide TV sets, for the widows’ entertainment.