Friday, July 27, 2007

More Indians in 'city of widows'


By Jyotsna Singh
BBC News, Delhi

Women in India
Widows are seen as a drain on resources
The number of young Hindu widows seeking refuge in India's holy city of Vrindavan - nicknamed "the city of widows" - is rising, a study says.

The study, funded by the United Nations women's organisation Unifem, found it was poverty, and not spirituality, that was driving women to Vrindavan.

The report said that poor and helpless women went to the northern city to escape "humiliation and dependence".

Nearly 15,000 widows are believed to be living on the streets of Vrindavan.

Widows are traditionally ostracised in India and the new study shows their plight remains pretty much unchanged.

Unaware of help

It says that almost 80% of the widows who come to Vrindavan - in the state of Uttar Pradesh - are from West Bengal, and a large number of them are very young.

All this is despite the fact that West Bengal has one of the highest pension schemes offered by the government for widows, almost $20 (£10) a month.

A well-known journalist, Usha Rai, carried out the research. She said that widows go to Vrindavan because often they are not aware of government policies to help them.

She said charities in Vrindavan are relatively well-off as they receive huge donations.

She recommended "rehabilitation and skilled training" for widows so that they are not dependant on charity alone.

But these women are often driven away because their families see them as a drain on their finances.

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