Widows in a West Bengal village have been living in more difficult conditions than they should because they are not receiving the state’s welfare intended for them.
In India, a lot depends on the lottery of birth. This lottery will sketch out a starting line and more or less predict where you will finish. In such a system it is essential that the state sets up means of welfare for people who may be living under undeserved economic and social circumstances. And the government needs to ensure that welfare actually reaches them so that everyone enjoys the right to a respectful and dignified life. If bureaucracy blocks people’s access to welfare schemes, then it is a pitiful violation of the right to a dignified life guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.
There are around 10 widows in the Naya Basti village of West Bengal’s Malda District, Kaliachak Block 1, North Dariyapur, who qualify for the widow pension but have been living in difficult conditions because the welfare money meant for them hasn’t reached them, reports Community Correspondent Soriya Banu. They are eligible to receive a monthly pension of 300 rupees under the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme, a part of the central government’s social security scheme for the elderly, widows and persons with disabilities, called the National Social Assistance Programme. The West Bengal government’s Widow Pension scheme provides a higher amount of 750 rupees per month.
Phulsar Bewa of North Dariyapur lost her husband 12 years ago. She received her widow’s pension for eight years, until it suddenly stopped, she says. The 72-years-old suffers from medical ailments, and says the pension will allow her to seek out medical assistance and improve her quality of life. Similarly, Asia Bibi, 68, too, received the pension until it stopped coming suddenly. Both of them visited the post office, panchayat (village council) and the Block Development Office to raise their concerns, but they continue to wait with empty hands.
Soriya took this matter to the Panchayat Head, Farhan Bibi, who confirmed that the women had raised the issue of widow’s pension with her, and also that the pensions have not been reaching them as intended.
Article 38 of the Indian Constitution says, “State to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people.” It recognises the responsibility of the state to protect people from inequalities that may be a result of economic, social and political cards dealt to them. Section 2 of the Article says, “The State shall, in particular, strive to minimise the inequalities in income, and endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities, not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of people residing in different areas…” Currently, it seems that the only factor blocking the women of North Dariyapur from receiving their due benefits is sheer inefficiency on the state’s part, allowing undeserved inequalities of some to play out.
Video by Community Correspondent Soriya Banu
Article by Shreya Kalra, a member of the VV Editorial Team