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Till the other day I imagined that I had read all about the plight of widows in Kashi or Vrindavan, and that I could empathize with their plight. I knew of the sexual exploitation of widows by the pandas, the police and the pimps; I knew that they were paid a pittance for singing bhajans for hours on end; I knew of their shaved heads and the taboos relating to food and clothes; and I knew they died lonely deaths.
I believed that death would be a blessing for these unfortunate women till I learnt that the bodies of widows who die in the government-run shelters in Vrindavan are taken away by sweepers at night, cut into pieces, put into jute bags and disposed of (by throwing the bags into the Yamuna), as the institutions do not have any provision for decent funerals.
One such institution, started by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2006 and run by a non-governmental organization called the Akhil Bharatiya Maa Sharada Samaj Kalyan Samiti, says on record that it is not their responsibility to arrange funerals of these hapless women.
No, I am not hallucinating. I am quoting media reports which rely on a study (Plight of Forsaken/Forlorn Women- Old and Widows Living in Vrindavan and Radius) by the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA), Mathura. The DLSA in its report quotes Mithilesh Solanki, a widow living in Swadhar Mahila Ashray Kendra, Chaitanya Vihar (Vrindavan), to reveal this horrifying state of affairs. The report says, and I quote, “the bodies of widows who die in government-run shelter homes in Vrindavan are taken away by sweepers at night, cut into pieces, put into jute bags and disposed of as the institutions do not have any provision for a decent funeral. This, too, is done only after the inmates give money to the sweeper!”
I thank Sapna Tripathi, Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mathura and Vijay Bahadur Yadav, Chairman (DLSA) and District Judge, Mathura for bringing this horrific state of affairs to light, and I wonder if people like you and I can do something about this.
I am a former bureaucrat, and have worked a lot on gender issues, disaster management
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