On January 26, a number of medals like the Paramvir Chakra and the Visisth Seva Chakra are awarded to gallant men of our armed forces. Many such awards are declared posthumously. Do we ever think of these men’s families?
In the past, there was no concrete programme of rehabilitating the windows or other members of the families of those who died on the front. The war Widows Association was conceived keeping in mind the hardships faced by the windows after the 1971 Indo-Pak war. In the last decade, this organization has helped many through social and economic rehabilitation.
Special attention is given to the rehabilitation of young widows as apart from a personal loss they also have to face social problems. For Gurcharan Kaur, 40, a nurse in a private polyclinic at greater Kailash, the War Widows Association came as a saviour when she lost her husband in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. She was only 20 when six months after her marriage war broke out and her husband Prabjot Gil died on the front. Life after her husband’s death was “sheer torture and living hell.” Her in-laws who held her responsible for her husband’s death reproached her. She did nothing to look after herself until 1984. Then she was contacted by the War Widows Association. Says Gurucharan “Now I look forward to a new day. In the past I used to dread thinking about my future”. Today Gurucharan is happily married Amrinder Singh, a clerk, in Krishi Bhavan. She also has a small daughter. The War Widows Association who also got her the job conducted her marriage.
Most of the widows helped by the association come from a rural background. Initially the association started its operations in Delhi only but later it expanded its services to all over the country. It looks for the needy and then brings them to its fold. The emphasis has been more on jawans’ widows because it was found that that while most of the officers’ widows were educated and could to some extent represent their cases to the government the jawans’ widows were mostly illiterate, lived in remote rural areas and were more in need of help.
To have a better understanding of these women living in rural areas the association conducted a survey about a year ago in the Sikar District of Rajasthan. The association found out that this district alone had 804 war widows; 30 percent of them child widows who had never crossed the threshold of their husbands’ homes. “It is this section which touches the crore of our heart,” says Amrita, a volunteer.
A massive rehabilitation programme was undertaken there, because of which a stay home and a vocational training center for women was established. However, not all war widows are fortunate enough to get help in time. One such person is Shyama Singh, a tailor from Gobindpuri. With tears in her eyes, she recalls her husband’s death in Sri Lanka where he had gone as a part of the Peace Keeping Force. “It was not easy bringing up four kids. I did not have any savings and whatever compensation I received was not enough.” Her youngest daughter Laxmi died because she did not have money to pay for a bone marrow operation.
Then she decided to get in touch with the War Widows Association on the advice of friend. The association provided her the necessary assistance to set up a tailoring shop with a few others. Today she earns a decent living for herself.
The association, situated in Shaheed Bhavan, near the Jawaharlal Lal Nehru University campus has undertaken a cause which deserves to be lauded as it not only assures the war widows that the nation has not forgotten them, it also boosts the morale of those serving the nation that in case of emergency the nation is there to take care of their loved ones.