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Floral offerings at Vrindavan and Mathura Temples to be used to empower widows and destitute women in shelter homes: SC [Read Order]

The Supreme Court on Tuesday headed by a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta in The Environment and Consumer Protection Foundation etc. Vs Union of India & Ors directed temples in Mathura and Vrindavan to donate all flowers offered to them to shelter homes for widows and destitute women in a bid to improve the livelihood of such women in the two cities. The Apex Court held that these floral offerings will no longer be dumped in Yamuna river, but will now be used to empower these widows and destitute women. The Court also directed the UP Govt to carry out to carry out an inspection of all its shelter homes of Vrindavan to examine and ascertain the status of the buildings there.

The matter purported to petition filed by Environment and Consumer Protection Foundation intending to bring back some sunshine in the lives of the widows in Vrindavan and in ashrams elsewhere in the country. The petition was filed on the basis of an article ‘White Shadows of Vrindavan’ written by Atul Sethi and published in the New Delhi edition of the Times of India of 25th March, 2007. The apparent intention of the article was to report and bring to the notice of the public and the government agencies the pathetic and shocking conditions of the widows living in Vrindavan – begging in temples and then huddling together in hovels.

During the proceedings a Plan of Action was introduced by Solicitor General to work on these issues. The Court ordered the compliance of the Plan of Action. On 7th February 2018, the Top Court directed the Ministry of Women and Child Development to file compliance affidavit which was filed by the Ministry on 16th March, 2018.

A perusal of the affidavit indicated that there were some States that had not submitted the necessary information to the Ministry of Women and Child Development and there were some States where the information given was incomplete. The Court found this extremely unfortunate and directed all the States and Union Territories Administrations to supply full and complete information by email to the Ministry of Women and Child Development within a period of two weeks from the date of order. It also directed National Commission for Women to assist the Ministry of Women and Child Development in the collection of information and analysis of the information.

Widows Homes:

During the course of hearing, the Bench informed the counsels that the media coverage of some Vrindavan shelter homes during the celebration of Holi had depicted a very sorry state of affairs of the floor and walls of the shelter home. Thus the Court asked the UP Govt to carry out an inspection of all its shelter homes of Vrindavan to examine status of buildings.

Floral Offerings:

The Court was informed that huge floral offerings are made to the temples in Vrindavan. Earlier, the floral offerings were either being dumped in river Yamuna or dumped elsewhere as garbage. But now under the initiative of the Department of Women Welfare in Uttar Pradesh, the floral offerings were being used for making eco-friendly products like Sugandh essence, Sugandh Jal, Gulal, Dhoop batti, agarbatti, etc. with the technical support of Floral and Fragrance Development Centre Kannauj under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry, Government of India. This effort of the Women Welfare Department, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh for the project of empowering destitute women residing in government shelter homes of Vrindavan with a sustainable source of employment by utilizing the floral offerings of the temples of Vrindavan and Mathura for making eco-friendly products was highly appreciated and commended by the Apex Court.

The Court pointed that this project would ensure proper disposal mechanism for the floral offerings, which were hitherto being dumped as garbage, while ensuring a dignified and sustainable employment for the destitute women. The Court thus passed orders that the temple and local administrative authorities of Vrindavan and Mathura, as well as Nagar Nigam Mathura, shall provide floral offerings only to the premises of widow and destitute shelter homes run by Uttar Pradesh Mahila Kalyan Nigam in Vrindavan and not to dump these offerings elsewhere.

The Bench also praised the extremely pro-active, instrumental and positive steps taken by Mrs. Renuka Kumar, Principal Secretary, Women Welfare Department, Govt. of U.P. and Mr. Sumati Misra, GM, UP Mahila Kalyan Nigam in this project. It also directed to give a copy of the entire project report to the office of learned Additional Solicitor General for Union of India and the counsel for National Commission of Women, so that this project can be emulated and extended to other temple towns like Jaganath Temple in Puri, Tirupati Temple in Andhra Pradesh and temples of Banaras.

Convergence of Schemes:

The Court took view note of the suggestion put forward by the NCW that since there are a large number of Schemes for destitute women and widows so it would be appropriate if a compilation is made of all these schemes and their analysis is made available. In furtherance of it, the Court directed all the State Governments and Union Territories Administrations to supply through e-mail to the Ministry of Women and Child Development and to the National Commission for Women all the schemes that are in force for destitute women. “The National Commission for Women should then analyse the Schemes and come out with one suitable, implementable and Model Scheme.” Court added.

The matter has now been listed for hearing on 2nd May .

Read Order Here:

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