news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | September 27, 2014 | 10:41 pm IST

Kolkata: West Bengal Women and Child Development Minister Sashi Panja on Saturday criticised actor-turned-BJP MP Hema Malini's remark that widows from West Bengal should not crowd Vrindavan, saying that everyone has the right to choose where they want to go and live.

"I do not agree with her (Hema Malini's) view as we all have the liberty to go anywhere and live there. Moreover Vrindavan is a holy place for us and is a part of our culture," Panja told reporters here while enjoying a tram ride with nearly 60 widows who arrived here from Vrindavan and Varanasi to celebrate Durga Puja - their first visit to the state in decades.

The visit was organised by NGO Sulabh International.

The minister also distributed saris among the widows and interacted with them. Besides, she commended the work being done by Sulabh for the welfare of the widows in Vrindavan and Varanasi for the past two years.

The Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Mathura had sparked off a controversy when she said there was no need for widows to come to Vrindavan from other states and there were many temples in Bengal and Bihar where they can live.

Sulabh took responsibility for the care of 800 widows in seven ashrams in Vrindavan and 200 in five ashrams in Varanasi. These women were forced to go to places like Vrindavan and Varanasi after the death of their husbands.

Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh, told IANS that the minister's interaction with the widows was a "good gesture" from the West Bengal government.

Earlier in the day, the widows, mostly in their late 70s and early 80s and even one in her mid-90s, visited the sprawling potters' colony of Kumartuli here, where Durga idols were being given the final touch for the next week.

Urmila Sarkar, in her 70s, told IANS that she was very excited to visit Kumartuli after decades and she was thrilled to see many idols in different shapes and sizes.

The widows had on Friday called on Governor K.N. Tripathi at Raj Bhavan here.


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