12/05/2017 9:11 AM IST | Updated 12/05/2017 1:41 PM IST

Empowering The 'Veer Naris' Is A Truly Meaningful Way To Honour Our Martyred Heroes

Let’s spare a thought for our war widows.

SHAMMI MEHRA via Getty Images

"Veer nari" (or woman of courage)—that's what a military widow is called in official parlance. A veer nari is defined as the widow of an armed forces member who has laid down his life for the nation, whether in war or in a military operation.

According to some estimates, India also happens to have one of the largest populations of war widows in the world, and it is only growing. Even before one could accept the reality of Sukma attack, where 25 of our CRPF jawans were martyred, three soldiers were killed in Kupwara and two others beheaded by Pakistani troops. In recent months, the number of attacks on our defence personnel appears to be growing. Indeed, according to intelligence reports, the number of terrorist camps across the border have increased from 35 to 55 since the surgical strikes by India. These camps have sent as many as 160 terrorists in the Kashmir valley to intensify attacks on our security forces.

As a society, we have to take care of our martyrs and their families because we owe the safety of our nation to them.

But even as we praise the valour of our martyred soldiers, we are blind to the profound grief of the war widows. Yes, these brave women are proud of the sacrifice of their husbands, but they are also staggering under a colossal loss and have little hope for succour in the system. Many are additionally disadvantaged by illiteracy and a lack of awareness.

They are left to fend for themselves, with no proper policy for their rehabilitation in place. Once the uproar and outrage dies down, they are left to deal with challenges such as bringing up their children alone, pension issues and a lack of financial security. Many have never had to deal with such issues before and are left in a vulnerable position. They are easy targets to be exploited by everyone from unscrupulous family members to corrupt officials in the system. While some organisations do advocate for their cause, there is only so much they can do.

Our widows don't have the right guidance and means of empowerment. Widowhood has a stigma attached to in our society, which makes the matters more complicated. There are also major disparities in the grants given state wise—for example, widows in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan get better benefits than of the other states. The same is the case with the various wars. There are significant inequalities which persist at every level.

I have been rooting for a policy to have a secure government job for the next of kin of a martyred soldier, but the issue has not garnered any support from the government. We need to bring this problem to the limelight. A secure job after the death of her husband in the line of action will not only empower our veer naris but also make them role models in their communities. The aim is to maintain their dignity and give them the respect they deserve.

As a society, we have to take care of our martyrs and their families because we owe the safety of our nation to them. The soldiers are the pillars of our democracy who sacrifice their lives willingly to this country. We owe it to them to empower the veer naris and give them the dues they truly deserve and help them in facing their difficult future. Jai Hind!

Photo gallery Vinod Khanna: A Style Icon See Gallery