New Delhi, Aug. 3: The Supreme Court today asked Uttar Pradesh to immediately deal with the food, health and hygiene issues of Vrindavan widows, raging at how a country with a tradition of offering food to all could allow them to die of hunger.
“Ours is a country where people are offering food and water to others all the time. But still people are dying of hunger,” the bench said.
“People even stop you on the roads to offer you food and water,” Justice D.K. Jain, sitting alongside Justice Madan B. Lokur, said.
The bench then directed Uttar Pradesh to ensure that doctors call on four state-run homes for widows in Vrindavan and Mathura at least twice of week. It asked the state to ensure these homes have common messes for those too frail to cook.
The court asked the sanitation department in these towns to ensure minimum hygiene is maintained in these homes. No one can live under such conditions, it said, referring to the squalor and dirt in these homes.
The bench directed the chief medical officer to make arrangements for the widows’ medicines and ensure dignified last rites for them.
Justice Lokur was equally unsparing. “We need people to move out of their offices and deal with these problems.”
The bench said no one had asked either Sulabh to manage the toilets in these homes or Syndicate Bank to disburse the monthly payment of Rs 850 to each of the 1,729 widows so far identified in the state data.
Their numbers, assessed to be over 20,000, has never been correctly ascertained.
“Ask them to help and if they refuse, come to us,” the bench said.
It was very critical that the widows were still cooking with kerosene stoves. It suggested their cots be replaced with something sturdier.
“Hygiene is an issue not addressed at all,” it said, asking those in charge to give up their “bureaucratic approach”. Some women sent money home, yet no one had found out if their families wanted them back, it said.
The bench asked the Legal Services Authority to send volunteers to handle these issues.
The state claimed it had tasked the district welfare and probation officers to deal with the widows’ problems.