Widow pension eludes 100-year-old, three more women in Kedarnath villageUpdated: Sep 05, 2017 21:14 IST
Centenarian Krishna Devi hobbles around in a leaky soot-stained hut she shares with her daughter-in-law, also a widow, in a remote village set in Uttarakhand’s panoramic Kedarnath valley.
Their neighbour is 72-year-old Shankari Devi, a war widow. Her husband, a soldier, died in the 1971 war against Pakistan.
She lives with her 34-year-old widowed daughter-in-law and two grandkids.
Kyuri village is a spattering of wood, tin and stone hutments; uneventful but a constant struggle of crushed souls to survive on bare minimum supplies. Wild berries, greens, little produce from the terraced farm and the long-saved coins to buy salt, sugar and soap.
It is a living example of a failed government system.
The four women are entitled to government benefits such as widow and old-age pensions. But social welfare schemes are too sloth to reach this mountainside settlement.
Krishna Devi applied for the widow pension years before the killer flash floods of 2013 devastated Kedarnath valley, one of the holiest places for Hindus.
She met the “babus” — government officials — in their offices umpteen times advancing her case. Nobody cared. In the last leg of her life, she has no energy left to trudge all the way to these offices.
Still she remains hopeful, and that perhaps keeps her going in the gloom.
Kedarnath witnessed a slow but massive reconstruction after the floods from a freak cloudburst. Survivors of the tragedy were compensated.
Krishna Devi, 57-year-old daughter-in-law Bageswari Devi, neighbour Shankari and her family were not included. The outpouring of public sympathy and funds skipped them, much like the storm’s full force that skirted their village.
“My husband died years ago, my mother-in-law and I made several requests to the officials and leaders. But noting came our way,” Bageswari said.
Krishna Devi was a teenager when she lost her husband, a railway employee when the British ruled India.
Neighbour Shankari gets a meagre military pension, hardly enough to feed a family of four.
The women recounted their ordeal when Kedarnath legislator Manoj Rawat visited the village.
“I feel ashamed to be called a public representative. I visited them on Monday and I will see that they live with dignity,” he said after sharing his experience on Facebook.
The government machinery appears to have woken up too, as Rudraprayag district magistrate Mangesh Ghildiyal promised an investigation.
“I have asked the sub-divisional magistrate to find out how they were left out if they had applied for widow or old-age pensions,” he said on Tuesday.