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Widows' plight makes Arundhati angry

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Mar 6 (UNI) An angry Arundhati Roy today put her voice behind a group of poor widows from Kerala who are in the capital to demand that they should not be asked to pay the loans taken by their dead farmer-husbands.

''I am very, very angry,'' said Ms Roy after visiting the tent in front of the Kerala House where nearly 50 widows from the Wayanad district of Kerala are staging protests.

The Booker Prize-winning author heard the stories of the women whose husbands committed suicide after failed crops and mounting debts in the past few years.

''I don't know what to say, I am ashamed,'' Ms Roy told reporters.

The author-activist saw the agitating widows when she was passing by the venue of their agitation during the protests against the visit of US President George W Bush last week.

''Bush was here for three days and I don't understand why the mainstream media is taking a holiday,'' she said apparently referring to the lack of coverage of the widows compared to acres of columns on the Bush visit.

Ms Roy blamed the economic policies of the government since the 90s for the plight of the widows. ''I recently heard (development journalist) P Sainath say that the only place in the Vidharbha region in Maharashtra which gets 24-hour electricity is the mortuary there.'' There is a seige on the rural economy in the country, she said adding that while the salaries of Indian CEOs match their Western counterparts, the poor people are reeling under debts.

''This is a way of reducing the population of this country to destitution,'' she said adding that these widows are the people who symbolise the conditions in the villages. ''I am giving them all my support.'' Mary Mathai from Kalpatta, who has been asked to pay her dead husband's loan of Rs 85,000 by the Kottathara Cooperative Bank, said the widows want the outside world to understand their problems.

''This will also help our sisters in other states who are facing problems like us,'' said Ms Mathai. ''Please ask the bank to write off the loan so that I can lead a peaceful life with my children,'' she said.

UNI FZ MA VP1306

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