A few cheers for Kashi widows

A few cheers for Kashi widows

A few cheers for Kashi widows

 Luxmi is 60 but years of begging on the famous and picturesque ghats of Kashi, earlier known as Varanasi, has made her look much older.

About 12 years ago, Luxmi, who hails from Chennai, came to Varanasi after she was abandoned by her family following the death of her husband and since then the ghats have been her abode. She hardly gets enough to feed her frail body.

Luxmi and hundreds like her can now expect to live a more decent life. Sulabh International, a voluntary organisation engaged in the field of sanitation, has now decided to adopt hundreds of widows of Kashi.

The organisation launched a campaign to improve their conditions on the ghats of the Ganges in Varanasi on Sunday.

The widows, who have been living on the ghats and at different ashrams in the holy town, will now get a monthly allowance of Rs 2,000, said Sulabh founder Bindeshwar Pathak.

“This amount is for their food and other necessities. We have also provided two fully equipped ambulances with medical supplies for their healthcare needs. This will also help to take them to the hospital,” he said.

Varanasi district magistrate Pranjal Yadav launched the ambulance services for them. A 24-hour helpline was also launched for them on the occasion.

Pathak said the organisation planned to educate the widows and had appointed two teachers for the purpose. “We also propose to give them training in stitching and other things so that they may earn more and keep themselves busy,” he added.

Like the widows of Vrindavan, the widows of Kashi have  been living in pitiable conditions. Abandoned by their families and ostracised by society, its a virtual ‘life imprisonment’ for them. The widows line the steep stairs of the ghats on the Ganges with begging bowls.

“The objective is to change the behaviour and attitude of the people towards the widows in general. After the death of their husbands, they face humiliation and are considered inauspicious,” he said.

Pathak plans to organise a national seminar in the next couple of months in an attempt to make the society aware of their plight in India and to change people’s attitude towards them.

Pathak also proposed a draft bill to be presented before the Parliament for their protection, welfare and maintenance. “The proposed bill will deal with measures to look after the welfare, protection and maintenance of the neglected, abandoned and destitute,” he added.

“I strongly feel that time has come for the government to enact a law for this purpose so that their living conditions may be improved'', he said.

He said he proposed to hand over the copy of the draft bill to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar so that it could see the light of the day.

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