Army embarks on bakery initiative to empower widows of martyrs in JK
By: Tariq A Sofi
Samba (JK), Apr 29 : In a sprawling military garrison known as ‘Samba brigade’ in Jammu and Kashmir, a group of women are engaged in making mouth-watering cookies – a unique venture started by the Army in an effort to empower widows of its martyrs.
Named ‘olive green cookies’, the Army has established the social entrepreneurship project in collaboration with a Pune-based NGO, Aseem Foundation, about one-and-a-half months back and was formally inaugurated by Zonal president, Army Wives Welfare Association, Rising Star Corps, Geetha Mohan a few days back.
“A group of widows were trained by the foundation which also provided necessary equipment for production of cookies… presently, 10 kg of cookies are manufactured by these women daily,” an Army officer supervising the initiative said.
The officer, who did not wish to be named, said the Army is transporting cookies twice a month to Pune where the NGO is doing its packaging and subsequently the product, which is made of the highest quality of apples and walnuts, hits the market.
He said initially the product is being sold to corporate customers in metros.
Displaying the ready-to-sell packet which costs Rs 55 a piece, he said the venture was still in its infancy and efforts are on to engage more women, especially widows of martyrs, to ensure their self-employment and making them financially independent.
The packet is inscribed with ‘Koshur Krunch’ (Kashmiri delicious) at the top and carries the message that every cookie is infused with the “flavor of valour and sacrifice”.
“Made by the hands of women of courage of Samba district (J&K), olive green cookie tells a story of fighting the odds after losing a near and dear one in the line of duty. These war widows have the grit and determination to embrace fate with a stern will and pride themselves in being called ‘Veer Nari’.
“With the purchase of every pack of ‘Koshur Krunch’s Olive Green Cookies’, you are saluting not only the brave martyr but also supporting the indomitable spirit of war widows or ‘veer naari’,” the message on the packet reads.
Semi Devi (26), working on a large oven donated by the NGO, lauded the Army for the initiative and said she lost all hope when her husband died in a road accident in Arunachal Pradesh in 2013 while moving with his unit.
“It was the first year of our marriage and I had just delivered a baby when the tragedy struck, shattering all my dreams,” she said adding the Army is doing everything possible to ensure that families of the martyrs live a respectable life and the latest initiative is part of it.
For Biaso Devi (70), the initiative means restoration of “self-esteem”.
“My husband, a former soldier, died some years back. I approached the Army for assistance and was very thankful for them to provide me a job at this age which made be independent once again,” says Devi.
Defence spokesperson Lt Col Devender Anand termed the venture as “noble” and said the profit earned would be shared by widows which would help empower them to lead a better life.
“It is in keeping with the Army’s tradition of looking after the families of its soldiers even after their sacrifice,” he said.
The officer said the biggest strength of a soldier on duty is his belief that if he sacrifices his life in the service of the nation, his family will be looked after by the Army and the initiative is an attempt to “fulfil this obligation”.