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Updated: February 26, 2013 09:49 IST

Feeling left out

Aarti Dhar
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Seeking empowerment: A widow at Ma Dham ashram in Vrindavan. Photo: Special Arrangement
Seeking empowerment: A widow at Ma Dham ashram in Vrindavan. Photo: Special Arrangement

Institutes run by voluntary organisations in Vrindavan for widows express disquiet at being left out of government doles

The Supreme Court’s intervention that brought some relief to destitute women and widows living in Vrindavan has been well appreciated. The plight of many of these women has off and on made international news, but not many know about individuals that have been working for the betterment of such women silently for years now. However, these institutions are now facing disquiet. 

Amar Badi Ma Dham is one such shelter home that has been providing succour to hundreds of such destitute women since 1997 but now there are signs of discontent among the residents who feel left out as monthly allowances are doled out to those residing in the government-run shelter homes following the apex court’s intervention.

“We have been working for empowerment of these women since 1997 but what kind of empowerment will charity provide,” says Mohini Giri, chairperson of Guild for Service, a non-government organisation which runs the shelter home in Vrindavan.

Sulabh International has been doling out Rs. 2,000 per month since last year to each of the 700 destitute women in five government-run shelter homes in Vrindavan following the Supreme Court order which directed Sulabh to provide basic facilities and cremation facilities for such women. In the same order, ISKCON was asked to provide one meal to these women. 

“Giving money can be no answer to empowerment. We do not want charity,” Ms. Giri says, adding that giver was a greater sinner than taker.

At present 100 widows, aged between 30 to 100 years, are residing in Amar Badi Ma Dham. They are being trained for nursing, stitching and other odd jobs so that they live with dignity. “But what training can you give to a 70 plus year-old woman,” Ms. Giri asks. Old age and widow pensions come once in six months. Until then, the woman has to depend on others. “If only the government systems were functional,” she points out.

“I have made Ma Dham my home now. I do not want to go back to my son,” says Jamna Bai Pandey from Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh who has been living in the home for several years. “But we also want cash like others are receiving,” says another old woman from behind.

The shelter home has several facilities. A doctor visits once a week, a physiotherapist comes daily and an ambulance is available on call. “The last rites are done with dignity,” explains Geeta Pandey, in-charge of the home.  

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