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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

Varanasi widows ask: Can Kejriwal or Modi do anything for the old and abandoned?

Brajesh Kumar, Hindustan Times  Varanasi, March 29, 2014
First Published: 19:22 IST(29/3/2014) | Last Updated: 03:31 IST(30/3/2014)
As Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal prepared to hold his first rally in Varanasi on March 25, the temple town has turned overtly political.
 
At every corner, people avidly debated if the former Delhi chief minister would put up a fight against the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
 
On the road, the BJP and AAP supporters indulged in a slugfest shouting slogans against each other.   
 
Amidst the din, the state-funded old age home for widowed called 'moksha-bhawan' in the city's Durgakund area, was eerily quiet. Some 30 elderly, abandoned by their own, spent time here waiting for their 'moksha'.
 
Bindeshwari Devi from Motihari in Bihar is in her nineties and does not know who Arvind Kejriwal is and has not heard of Narendra Modi either.
 
"Does it matter?" she said. She was dumped by her three daughters, the youngest of who convinced her mother to transfer the property in her name. She then kicked Devi out of her own house.
 
"Do these netas have anything to offer for the old?" she questioned.
 
Both Kejriwal and Modi have not yet included the welfare of the aged, which according the NGO Help Age India, will be 113 million in number by 2016, in their agendas for the Lok Sabha elections.  
 
While the government passed the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill in parliament in 2007 and according to which parents can take their children to court if they fail to take care of them, the law is difficult to implement.
 
"You think this frail old lady can take her daughter to court," Bindeshwari Devi asked again as tears trickled down her face.  
 
Durga Singh, 65, who belongs to Jaunpur and has a similar story to narrate (abandoned by her three married daughter) said the leaders should at least ensure the elderly who have been abandoned got adequate old-age pension and a home to spend the last days of their lives in peace.
 
"They should also see to it that children who abandon their parents go to jail," she added.
 
Shanti Sinha in her seventies and the most talkative as well as politically-aware of all inmates said Monmohan Singh did nothing for the poor.
 
"Garibon ke jaan le li usne,"(he has killed the poor) she said. She has also heard of Modi.
 
"Yes I have seen on him TV and in papers, and there is lot of talk about him," she said. "But will he do anything for us?" she too asked.
 
It is a question the widows of Varanasi have been asking for years. They are yet to get an answer.

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