It was the second anniversary of Uttarakhand floods, which claimed more than 6,000 lives. In a small village, nearly 50 km away from Kedaranth, women with photos of their deceased loved ones were sitting together. The Deoli-Brahmgram village witnessed 70 deaths – leaving behind over 60 widows and giving it the ‘Village of Widows’ tag. After two years, it is still very hard for them to accept reality. Mention of the flood brings tears to their eyes. But life goes on and now they are in search of jobs to sustain their children.
The lack of earnings has even prevented widows from sending their children to school. Shanta Devi, a 30-year-old widow, said:
“I am unable to fulfill the basic needs of my children since my husband died in the floods two years ago. At times, my kids starve which makes feel that I should also die to get rid of all these problems. We received about Rs. 10,000 from the government in the name of compensation after which they never turned up.”
With the lack of financial support, the future of children and widows is on a standstill. They don’t know from where money will come. Stressed by the same, Rachna, a 20-year-old, whose father died in the flood, said:
“My mother used to work in a small private enterprise here, but even they have not hired her for the last four months. I don’t know how will we manage. I was pursuing my graduation, but I am not sure how I will pay my fees now. I want to work to support my family, but there are no jobs for us here.”
Though the government did not provide any solutions to the villagers problems, an NGO – Sulabh International – is trying to empower them by giving them vocational training in sewing, candle-making and computer skills.
But for villagers like Rachna and others who have been training under them, the question of employment haunts them constantly. Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh International, said:
“To support them financially, we are giving the widows a monthly sum of Rs 2000. We know it is not enough, but it will help them in running their families. We are trying to provide them with some jobs and hopefully, it will happen soon.”