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Study on Widows in Vrindavan – Dimensions of Deprivation: Study on the Poverty Levels of Widows of Vrindavan

The treatment meted out to widows by certain section of Hindu society is appalling. The life of a widow in some Hindu communities is nothing short of dreadfulness. In such communities, the widows are kept out of all social functions and they can’t remarry. A larger number of widows from various parts of North India today live in Braj near Vrindavan – a minority of them voluntarily arrive to live in the ashrams here but majority of them are forced to leave their villages and families and live in Braj without any economic support from the family.
A study conducted by Guild of Service – Dimensions of Deprivation: Study on the Poverty Levels of Widows of Vrindavan – suggests that the Widows in Vrindavan are happier here than in their homes and in villages. Majority of them, even though miniscule, have found economic freedom and are moving away from traditional concepts of widowhood.
The Hindu reports
The study suggests that the Braj widows do not believe in tonsuring, and some of the younger ones seem open to the idea of remarriage, though they do not say it openly.
“They are rebuilding their lives and find less discrimination because of their widowhood. Most are able to enter temples, and some even attend ceremonies. In fact, one of them used the Internet and googled her way to an ashram here,” says the report.
The study sent questionnaires to 500 widows in the region. Seventy-eight per cent of them, the young as well as the old, are afraid of physical and sexual harassment, and 63 per cent of not attaining salvation (moksha). They also fear falling sick, not being cremated with proper rites, of being homeless and hungry.
Although they earn money from multiple sources — bhajans, ashrams, charity, pension, domestic-work, tailoring and candle making — it does not add up to much. Most of their money is spent on food, medicines, rent, clothes, travel and puja. A majority of them, (83 per cent), earn between Rs. 200 and Rs. 1,000 a month; 7 per cent less than Rs. 200 a month and 10 per cent more than Rs. 1,000 a month.
While food is not a problem, finding shelter is an area of concern, with approximately a third of them living in the open — on the streets, ghats, railway stations and bus stops, and having to fend for themselves. More than half of them live in rented rooms and 16 per cent in ashrams.
Sanitation is another area of concern, the survey points out.
Recommending convergence of several schemes meant for widows and destitute women, the report stresses need for the government to move from the dole-giving welfare approach to garnering the potential of this valuable human resource of 40 million widows who could be imparted education and enrolled into skill-development courses for making them economically independent.