Sulabh International, a non governmental organisation (NGO), has decided to double the monthly allowance of destitute, widowed women from this month to dissuade them from begging. The move will benefit 700-odd widows residing in five government-run old age homes here.

In addition, the women will be taught Hindi, English and Bengali by trained teachers so that they are able to sign and the money can be directly transferred to their bank accounts. At present, the cash is handed over to them. They will also be imparted age-appropriate skills to empower them to live a dignified life.

The NGO was directed by the Supreme Court to improve the lives of those destitute women who had been abandoned by their families and had made Vrindavan their home. The Court took cognisance of a report published by The Hindu in 2010 highlighting the pitiable condition of these women who eked out a living by begging and singing in temples. An enquiry by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) also revealed that once they were dead there was no provision for disposal of the bodies due to lack of funds. The bodies were often dismembered and dumped in the garbage.

Sulabh International last year started giving Rs. 500 a month to each of these women living in four government-run shelters and subsequently raised it to Rs. 1,000. “We have now enhanced it to Rs. 2,000 so that women do not go out on the streets to beg,” Bindeshwar Pathak, the NGO’s founder, told reporters here. Women were told that they should not beg on the streets and if anyone was found begging, the monthly allowance would be stopped immediately.

The organisation has made adequate provisions to ensure that the last rites were performed with due respect.

The NGO has been motivating able-bodied women to undergo vocational training so that they can earn their livelihood. Sewing machines were distributed among the women; the elderly would be engaged in making garlands, which would then be supplied to local markets. Making incense sticks is another engagement it would involve the women in.

Three teachers have been employed by the NGO to teach the women basic English, Hindi and Bengali as a large number of widows are from West Bengal and speak only Bengali.

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