Acid Attacks: Strict law but minimal implementation on ground

New Delhi: Shaheen Malik of Delhi Commission for Women says the implementation of law against acid attacks is “rare” as acid continues to be sold in shops and the money provided for the treatment of victims is often misused.

Malik, who heads the DCW’s team working for acid attack victims, says, “The apex court has mandated free treatment for acid attack victims but its implementation is very rare.

“In several hospitals when doctors come to know that the treatment has to be done free of cost they try to just save the life of the person rather than providing an efficient cosmetic surgery.”

Speaking at a seminar on “Acid attacks”, organised by Women’s Press Corps, Malik pointed out that despite the Supreme Court’s orders to ban acid, it is easily available.

“I still see it being sold on cycles all around me. I can easily buy it from a shop nearby my house. Whenever I call the police, they arrive late. By then the seller has already gone.

Despite Supreme Court’s orders to ban acid, it’s freely available. Unless restricted, you will not see a drop in acid attack crimes.”

Malik, who as attacked in 2009, shared her own struggle of last seven years as she went through several surgeries to get her face back.

“The physical pain is so intense that you forget about the mental trauma. It is like being robbed of your identity. One cannot explain the pain the victim goes through. At every point of my treatment, I felt that my life was slipping away from my hands. It has been seven years now,” Malik said.

At the seminar, plastic surgeon Ashok Gupta talked about the mental trauma experienced by an acid-attack victim.

Mumbai-based Gupta, who has been awarded Padma Shri for reconstructive surgeries on acid-attack survivors, says, “India has largest number of such cases compared to its neighbours”.

“India had maximum number of cases reported last year in comparison to Bangladesh and Pakistan. Both of these countries have formed stricter laws and have worked seriously by establishing acid survivor foundations. Bangladesh reduced acid-related crimes from 1,200 a year to 200 by implementation of laws restricting acid availability,” says Gupta.

Gupta feels these attacks are acts of revenge and best way to deal with them is banning the sale of acid.

“The person who throws acid does not want to kill the person rather take revenge so that the victim suffers for whole of her life. The best thing one can do is to make sure that the acid is not available in open.”

The plastic surgeon also believes that in “isolated cases” NGOs and hospitals misuse the funds alloted for the victim’s treatment.

“Although the treatment is free of cost, in isolated cases it has been seen that the money provided has been misused by the NGOs as well as the hospital providing the treatment.”