Supreme Court: In the petition where directions for the rehabilitation of the widows of Vrindavan were sought so as to bring them to a stage where they can live with dignity, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ formed a 6-member Committee to study the 18 reports filed by the National Commission for Women, the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the State of Uttar Pradesh among others and formulate an action plan within two months and in any case on or before 30th November, 2017.
The petition was filed based on the article “White Shadows of Vrindavan’ written by Atul Sethi and published in the New Delhi edition of the Times of India of 25.03.2007, which highlighted the pathetic and shocking conditions of the widows living in Vrindavan – begging in temples and then huddling together in hovels. It mentioned that the widows congregate in some ashrams or temples where they sing bhajans and are paid about Rs. 18 per day for about 7 to 8 hours of singing and that they were spending the rest of their time begging on the streets. Many of them are too old to look after themselves requiring others to pool in their resources to look after them.
Various reports were submitted before the Court after a Social Justice Bench was constituted by the Chief Justice of India in 2015. Solicitor General also submitted an Action Plan on 18.07.2017. The Court said that the effort put in by all concerned in the reports should not go waste and it must be gainfully utilized, being in a sense a gold mine of pragmatic and workable suggestions. The Committee constituted by the Court includes:
- Suneeta Dhar of NGO Jagori,
- Meera Khanna of Guild for Service
- Abha Singhal Joshi, Lawyer and activist
- A nominee of HelpAge India, an NGO that has rendered valuable assistance in this case,
- A nominee of Sulabh International, an NGO that has rendered valuable assistance in this case,
- Aparajita Singh, a lawyer practising in this Court to provideany assistance on legal issues.
The Court noticed that all that widows in some parts of the country are socially deprived and to an extent ostracized and perhaps this is the reason why many of them choose to come to Vrindavan and other ashrams where, unfortunately, they are not treated with the dignity they deserve and it is important to give voice to these hapless widows. In order to follow-up on the Agreed Action Plan submitted by the Solicitor General, the Court will take up the matter on 09.10.2017. [Environment and Consumer Protection Foundation v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 916, decided on 11.08.2017]