The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, directed the temples in Mathura and Vrindavan to donate all flowers offered to them to shelter homes for widows and destitute women, hoping that this would improve the livelihood of such women in the two cities. These offerings would be used by them to make eco-friendly products.
The Bench comprising Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta also directed the National Commission for Women (NCW) to analyze all schemes in force for destitute women and formulate a Model Scheme.
To this end, it has directed all State Governments and Union Territories Administrations to supply information on existing schemes to the NCW.
During the hearing, the Court took note of a communication received from Ms. Renuka Kumar, Principal Secretary of the Women Welfare Department of Government of Uttar Pradesh. She had drawn the Court's attention to an initiative taken by them wherein floral offerings made to the temples in Vrindavan were now being used for making eco-friendly products like Sugandh essence, Sugandh Jal, Gulal, Dhoop batti, agarbatti, etc. This was done with technical support from Floral and Fragrance Development Centre, Kannauj.
Ms. Kumar had now sought a direction to temples and local authorities of Vrindavan and Mathura to deposit floral offerings to the premises of widow and destitute shelter homes run by Uttar Pradesh Mahila Kalyan Nigam in Vrindavan, instead of dumping them.
Lauding the initiative, the Court directed, "Accordingly, we pass necessary directions and orders in terms of the communication dated 17th March, 2018 sent by Ms. Renuka Kumar, Principal Secretary, Women and Welfare Department of the Government of Uttar Pradesh. The concerned authorities in Vrindavan and Mathura will ensure compliance."
It further directed the National Commission for Women to examine if similar initiatives can be undertaken in other temple towns such as Jagannath Puri and Varanasi.
Besides, the Court was also informed that media coverage of some Vrindavan shelter homes during the celebration of Holi had depicted a very sorry state of affairs. It then directed Additional Advocate General for Uttar Pradesh, Ms. Aishwarya Bhati to ensure that such shelter homes are properly maintained.
The matter has now been listed on 2 May, 2018.
"Give up stereotypical views on widows"
The Court is hearing a PIL filed by an NGO, Environment and Consumer Protection Foundation, seeking a direction to the Union of India and the State of Uttar Pradesh to take all steps to rehabilitate the widows of Vrindavan so as to bring them to a stage where they can live with dignity.
The Petition widely quotes an article titled "White Shadows of Vrindavan" written by Mr. Atul Sethi, who had brought to the fore the shocking conditions in which widows were living in Vrindavan.
The Court had then, in August last year, decided to intervene in the matter, constituting a committee to study all reports and provide it with a common working plan to rehabilitate these women. A Bench comprising Justice M.B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta had then observed,
" There can be little or no doubt at all that widows in some parts of the country are socially deprived and to an extent ostracized. 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. This is evident from the article that caused this public interest litigation and the compilation of reports that this litigation has generated.
It is to give voice these hapless widows that it became necessary for this Court to intervene as a part of its constitutional duty and for reasons of social justice to issue appropriate directions."