Supreme Court issues notices to U.P., Odisha, West Bengal

The Supreme Court on Monday expressed concern over the increasing number of widows being dumped in Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh and regretted that various government schemes had failed to address the problems faced by these women.

A Bench of Justices D.K. Jain and Madan B. Loku issued notices to Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal, from where widows are being dumped in Vrindavan. The Bench observed that these States had to so something if the tide of widows thronging Vrindavan was to be curbed.

Acting on a report from The Hindu , the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has taken up the cause of the widows along with NGO Environment and Consumer Protection Foundation.

When senior counsel Colin Gonslves suggested that the court should ask the governments to sanction a pension of Rs.1,000 per month for each of the widows, the Bench refused to pass such an order for fear that it will push the widows further into the arms of “touts.”

Justice Jain observed: “We are sorry to say that we have hundreds of such schemes. But all of us know where the money goes — Rs.100 will go to them [the widows] and Rs.900 to touts. This will push them further into the arms of touts. There are a large number of touts whose profession and occupation is to exploit these widows.”

The Centre and all States have a plethora of commissions for various causes such as human rights, women and children, etc. But most of them pay lip service to these causes, he lamented.

The NALSA report, which was given to the court in a sealed cover, also said that these women could benefit from free legal aid. A NALSA study had shown that some were abandoned by their husbands. These women generally spend all their time singing bhajans and kirtans or begging in the temples of Varanasi in return for a pitiable amount of money. The young ones are often exploited under the sevadasi system, in which they have to do all kinds of things for the benefit of the pilgrims and the priests. The State does not give them basic health services or shelter.

The widows also die an equally undignified death, the report added. Their bodies are taken away by sweepers in jute bags, paid for by other institution inmates from their meagre resources. The bodies are never cremated. Instead, the bodies are cut into pieces and thrown into rivers in the jute bags.

The report of the Mathura District Legal Services Authority speaks of the plight of widows of Vrindavan and Radhakund in Mathura district. The NALSA has also filed a petition seeking urgent health and shelter facilities for them. It has identified other religious places in West Bengal where the widows throng, such as Tarapith, Kalighat, Dakshineshwar, Adyapeeth, Furfura Sharif and Patharchapri.

The NALSA claimed that the plight of the widows was testimony to ignorance of their rights under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, which mandates children to take care of their parents. Children abandoning their elders in such places face jail up to three months or fine of Rs.5,000 under the Act. The NALSA said that Bengal and Odisha should immediately publicise these laws to prevent dumping of elderly women in Vrindavan.

  • Widows from Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal being dumped in Vrindavan

  • Bench says no to monthly pension saying “it will push widows further into arms of touts”