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Supreme Court ruling on financial aid not enough, say acid-attack victims

Harsha Raj Gatty, Bangalore, July 23, 2013, DHNS: 1:21 IST

Survivors entitled to only Rs 400 a month, demand awareness campaign to ease stigma

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The Supreme Court’s order to provide monetary compensation to survivors of acid attacks has been described by victims as an inefficient measure as far as their right to live with dignity is concerned.

Although the apex court has enhanced monetary compensation up to Rs 3 lakh, it does not meet even a fifth of the actual expense for treatment, said Jayalakshmi, a victim of acid attack from Huliyaru, Tumkur district.

“The State should take the complete responsibility for our treatment so that we can at least go back to our ordinary lives,” she said. “Though people are more sensitive to our plight nowadays, it is difficult for us to gain social acceptance completely. Both government and private agencies are unwilling to provide us with employment, even though we have been trained by a few NGO's in a particular trade.”

Victims of acid attacks are currently covered under the disability pension, under which the State government pays a paltry sum of Rs 400 a month as compensation. The money is a pittance, but for many victims, a greater burden is the lifelong trauma which follows an attack.

Gauri, an activist of the Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAAW), said acid scarring creates a horror among members of the victim’s own family and has the potential to render the victim an outcast from her community. “Such attacks leave an everlasting impression, especially among children,” Gauri explained.

“In one striking incident, the victim’s daughter even refused to go to school, out of the fear that someone would throw acid on her. The daughter also refuses to stay with her mother, despite pressure from her family.”

According to CSAAAW, the association has accounted over 104 cases of acid attack against women from 1999 till date. “In some of the cases, we are still trying to get an FIR registered in the jurisdictional police station, since the local law enforcement officials themselves are confused about the charges to be levelled against the accused,” Gauri added.

Meanwhile, the State police department has welcomed the Supreme Court’s move to classify acid as poison and restrict its trade to licensed vendors. Victims, however, have also called for a public awareness campaign highlighting the stigma faced by the victims.

A senior police officer concurred with the suggestion. “In most acid-attack cases, the accused is not a professional criminal, but attempts to cause grievous harm to the victim on the spur of the moment. In such cases, the accused can manage to procure acid even from a car battery. So, in my opinion hate crimes can be effectively prevented by social awareness programmes, especially among the younger generation who are more prone to act in rage,” he said.

Several survivors of acid attack, Jayalakshmi (Tumkur), Geetha (Shimoga), Thippamma (Bellary), Shanti (Mysore) are planning to visit Chief Minister Siddaramaiah with a formal appeal for jobs, housing, and educational provisions for their children. The victims will also appeal to Siddaramaiah for a quicker conversion of acid-attack cases into non-bailable offences.

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