The Bill is a slight improvement on a Private Member’s Bill tabled in 2007

Taking forward the movement on improving the plight of widows in the country, a Bill has now been drafted for the protection, welfare and maintenance of such women

The draft Bill prepared by Sulabh International seeks to provide for measures to be undertaken by the state for the protection, welfare and maintenance of neglected, abandoned and destitute widows by establishing a welfare board and creating a separate fund for these women

The proposed Protection, Welfare and Maintenance of Widows Bill, 2013 is a slight improvement on a similar document tabled in the Lok Sabha by Professor Mahadeorao Shiwankar in 2007 as Private Member’s Bill that>lapsed due to the dissolution of the House

The National Widows Welfare Board is proposed to be chaired by the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment with MPs, widows, civil society representatives and State officials as its members. Central and State governments would contribute to the Fund and all donations would be credited to it for use for the welfare of widows

The draft Bill proposes a subsistence allowance of Rs. 2,000 per month for each woman — to be revised as per price index — in addition to free residential accommodation, education, vocational training, employment and medical facilitie>

Among other provisions, it says that a widow shall not be evicted or thrown out of the house of her in-laws or parents, and would be entitled to property as per inheritance laws, in addition to maintenance allowance from the heir or in-laws who do not keep her in the family

“I was surprised at the coincidence of the older draft, since Sulabh International is providing all facilities to widows, following the Supreme Court directive, as were envisaged in the draft. We have made just a few changes and will present it to the Lok Sabha Speaker soon,” Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International told>The Hind>. He said everyone had welcomed the help being rendered by his organization to the widows and hoped the bill would receive unanimous support from the government as well as Members of Parliament to ensure its speedy passage

Sulabh International will also shortly start a helpline for widows in Vrindavan and Varanasi where widows in distress orshelter providers could>seek help from. “We are looking for accommodation where the helpline staff could be located and this will act as a one stop help point for widows,’’ Mr. Pathak said at Varanasi on Sunday where he donated two ambulances for widows

Varanasi, too, has a large number of widows who do not stay with their families either willingly or due to circumstances

According to the draft Bill, nearly three per cent of the total female>population in the country comprises>widows; with more than half of them>being old, infirm, disabled and having no source of income. A widow is often driven out by her in-laws’ house or even her parental house. At some places, these women are termed as witches and tortured by their own family members.