Supreme Court comes to rescue of Vrindavan widows
New Delhi, Aug 3 (IANS) Irked over the insensitivity towards abandoned widows in Vrindavan, the Supreme Court Friday said India was the only country where every day people distribute free food and water yet there are people who remain hungry.
"Ours is the only country where every day people are offering food and cold water to those travelling on the roads but still there are people who go hungry", said the apex court bench of Justice D.K. Jain and Justice Madan B. Lokur.
While directing the chief medical officer (CMO) of Mathura Civil Hospital in Uttar Pradesh to depute a team of doctors to visit four shelter homes of widows at least twice a week, the court slammed the tendency of officials sitting in offices who made proposals but did not pursue them.
The court directed that "it would be the duty of the chief medical officer to depute a doctor as soon as he receives information about the illness of the inmates".
"Officials sitting in office and making proposals and not pursuing it -- that is the problem. There are people who want to help (widows in Vrindavan) but people don't want to come out of their offices," said Justice Jain when the court was asked to issue directions.
People engaged in ameliorating the plight of the widows should first take initiatives and do all that can be done and then come to us pointing to "bottlenecks" and the authorities that are not responding to their suggestions, the court said, adding "it should not be the other way round."
"You may have hundred reports on improving the conditions of Vrindavan widows," Justice Lokur said, adding "you have to have someone who is interested to do something."
"They must have some people who should play an active role," he said.
Pointing to the condition of the rooms and toilets in the four shelter homes in Vrindavan, the court observed: "You can't live in those conditions".
Having said this, court directed the head of the sanitation department to ensure that rooms and toilets are kept in a good condition.
"The head of the sanitation department of city of Vrindavan shall ensure that rooms and toilets in shelter homes (for widows) are kept in good conditions," the court order said.
As the court's attention was drawn to a number of widows who, on account of their age, were not in a position to cook, the court directed the Uttar Pradesh government to "also explore the working possibility of a common mess at each of the shelter homes".
The court shot down the suggestion to give free food to shelter home inmates saying that in that eventuality street people would also come there.
The court said widows should be given pension and if they wanted to cook their food, the choice should be left to them.
The court noted that widows coming from different states might not like the same kind of food.
On the "decent" last rites of the widows who pass away, the court directed the chief medical officer to make the arrangements.
"The chief medical officer is hereby directed to ensure that the last rites are performed as per the customs of the deceased in such shelter homes," said the court.
It also directed the National Commission for Women and State Commission for Women to file affidavit stating steps taken or proposed to be taken to help the destitute widows living in the shelter homes.
The court also took on record the statement by the Uttar Pradesh counsel that it had constituted a committee of district food officer and district welfare officer. The court said the committee would ensure that proper food was supplied to the inmates of the shelter homes.
Taking a jibe at the Uttar Pradesh government, Justice Jain said: "We will be more than happy if 50 percent of what the state counsel is saying is implemented".
While fixing Sept 3 as the next date of hearing, the court directed the secretary of District Legal Service Authority to "ensure that the aforesaid directions are implemented both in letter and spirit".
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