Breaking taboos: this Maharashtra village shows the way

A step forward:  A gram sabha meeting in progress at Jakatwadi in Satara district.

A step forward: A gram sabha meeting in progress at Jakatwadi in Satara district.

Breaking age-old traditions and taboos, a small village in Maharashtra is unanimously stepping forward to ensure widows in the village are not isolated. In a first-of-its-kind initiative in the State, the gram panchayat of Jakatwadi village in Satara district will extend financial aid of ₹20,000 to a widow who decides to remarry.

Chandrakant Sanas, sarpanch of the village of 3,000-odd residents, told The Hindu the decision was not an impromptu one, but one taken after discussions of over six to seven months. “Initially, we were sceptical if the villagers, especially the elders, would approve of the move. To our surprise, not a single person opposed it,” Mr. Sanas, who has a master’s in social work, said.

“If a man in his 40s loses his wife, he remarries easily and continues with his life. But even if a woman loses her husband in her 30s, it becomes difficult for her to remarry. Society will force her back by one mean or the other. We decided to end this,” Mr. Sanas said. He said though the amount isn’t big, the message that it sends will be heard all over.

Bismilla Sheikh, a woman member of the gram panchayat, said it is a good step forward. “As a woman, I know how society treats widows. We discussed the issue, and from whatever strength and understanding we possess, we came to this solution,” she said. The aid will be given from the gram panchayat’s budget for women and child welfare.

Around 35 years ago, it was in Satara that rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar organised a widow re-marriage ceremony. “It was opposed vehemently, and the atmosphere was tense. He was helped by [Peasants and Workers Party leader] N.D. Patil to go ahead with the programme. After all these years, a gram panchayat in the same district has decided to further the cause,” Dr. Hamid Dabholkar, the rationalist’s son, said. He has helped Mr. Sanas arrange various initiatives in the village.

Rajesh Bhosle, a villager, said this is not the first proactive initiative taken by Jakatwadi. “We saw the problem of alcoholism in the youth of our village, and set up a rehabilitation centre. The gram panchayat is run by taking the opposition group into confidence. We are not a wealthy village, but aspire to be cultured one.”

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2022 3:53:49 am |