The widows of Mathura and Vrindavan bade goodbye to 2013 recalling some happy moments of having participated in festivals like Holi, Durga Puja and Diwali, and ending the year with merry celebrations of Christmas.
The spirit of Holi was seen across the five government-run shelter homes in Vrindavan where NGO Sulabh International provided stipend, food and healthcare facilities for the widows. This year, Durga Puja was a homecoming for 50 Bengali widows from Vrindavan and Mathura as they went back to their home Kolkata.
Moved by their plight, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee offered to help Bengali widows to re-settle in Kolkata. The NGO also launched a pension and medical welfare scheme for around 1,000-odd widows of Vrindavan.
It pays Rs.2,000 every month to each widow living in four shelters in Vrindavan, the holy city of Krishna. Arrangements have also been made to impart education to the widows in three languages — Hindi, Bengali and English. Teachers have been appointed for the purpose.
“I strongly feel that time has come for the government to enact a law for the welfare, protection and maintenance of widows so that their living conditions and general existence are improved,” Sulabh founder Bindeshwar Pathak said.
The NGO has drafted a legislation to be introduced in parliament for their protection, welfare and maintenance. It has provided the government-run shelters in Vrindavan five well-equipped ambulances along with medical equipment.
“Before Sulabh started helping us, we used to earn just Rs.5 per day. We were living in penury, as there was no one to help us,” said 75-year-old Anjana Goswami. Over 1,000 widows of Meera Sahbhagini Ashram (Vrindavan), participated in Diwali festivities this year – bursting crackers and lighting earthen lamps.
The widows brought the curtains down on 2013 donning Santa Claus caps and dancing around a gaily decorated Christmas tree.