Empowering Widows: From Begging to Self-Sufficiency

2023.06.23 (Vrindavan Today News): International Widow’s Day holds a special significance for the widows of this sacred city, as they find hope and self-sufficiency through devotion and government support. Previously surviving by begging, many of these widows are now becoming financially independent.

There are two government-run widow ashrams in Vrindavan and several private ashrams that provide shelter and respect to these elderly women. Among them, the Women’s Shelter House in Chaitanya Vihar accommodates around 300 widows. While most of them hail from West Bengal, there are also women from Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, and Bihar, who are striving to make a living.

Vrindavan widows

The women residing in the shelter house receive a monthly allowance of Rs 1850, which covers their food and pocket expenses. Additionally, they have been issued Antyodaya ration cards, entitling them to free wheat, rice, and sugar. The government also provides a monthly pension of Rs 1000 to support their financial needs. The morning meals are sponsored by Akshaya Patra, while Santosh Ashram supplies evening tea and toast. The Braj Gandha Prachar Samiti brings flowers from the Bihariji temple to the Ashray Sadan, where these women make incense sticks. They receive training from the committee and are paid Rs 50 per day for their work.

Krishna Kutir, situated in Ramtal, houses 187 elderly women who enjoy the same government facilities available at the shelter home. Here, the women engage in devotional songs (bhajans) and some even practice yoga.

Anu, originally from Matidih in Purulia district, West Bengal, arrived in Vrindavan in 2002 and resorted to begging near the temples. After discovering the shelter house, she sought refuge there. Shivani Mandal, a resident of Kandhi, also worked as a utensil cleaner before finding solace at the shelter house in 2008. Both Anu and Shivani now lead their lives through prayer and worship, finding strength in the Lord’s name.

However, despite efforts to provide a dignified life for these widows, some still engage in begging around temples. It is estimated that they earn between 500 to 700 rupees per day. The Probation Department has repeatedly sent them to Ashray Sadan and Krishna Kutir, but they often leave under the pretext of temple visits and do not return.

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