Most of the houses in Vagurappanpatti, a small village panchayat near Morappur block of Dharmapuri, have one or more widows. And most of them lost their spouses when they were young, due to the men’s addiction to arrack (alcohol). Having lost their husbands, the women eke out a living with the help of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).
Muniyammal (45) of Perusagoundanpatti in Vagurappanpatti panchayat, who lost her husband Govindan eight years after her marriage, told Express, “In the 1990s arrack was very common in Dharmapuri district. Each and every village had an illegal arrack shop then. During that period, most of the men in the village consumed arrack. I too lost my husband as his liver was damaged due to his frequent arrack consumption. Leaving me and my two children, he died when I was just 25. Due to my hard work, I raised my children.”
Like Muniyammal, several women in the panchayat have sad stories. Santha, a resident of Vagurappanpatti, Kanchana of Sengankottai, Amutha of Kandampahalli, and Sivakami of Konampatti also lost their husbands to the arrack menace. Amutha, whose husband died due to arrack consumption, said, “My family ekes out a living with the help of NREGA.”
Most of the women who were married off during the 1980s and 1990s wedded when they were young, and most of them were child marriages. Thus, they were widowed at a very young age.
The village panchayat has received the most number of applications for widow pension and 805 women have been getting the payment. A village administration official said, “In this panchayat, 805 women are getting widow pension.” More: P5