Over the past five years, there have been 46 acid attack cases in Delhi alone. As per the Centre’s guidelines, victims are entitled to a minimum of Rs 3 lakh. In case of disfigurement of face or vital organs, the amount can be extended to Rs 8 to Rs 9 lakh.
However, the reality is far from that. Not even a single arrest in one case, the accused out on bail in two others, and arduous fights for justice in the rest — for victims of acid attacks in the capital, the crime is only the start of a long and financially crippling journey.
“For six years, I could not sleep or go out of my house because of the burns. I was attacked with an acid used to clean metals. It’s been 18 years now, but my wounds never healed,” said Anu Mukherjee, a 40-year-old acid attack survivor who lives in Delhi’s Kailash Colony.
Anu and her brother lost their parents when they were teenagers, and the two left their aunt’s home to earn for themselves. She took up a job as a dancer at a hotel in Jangpura. “It was December 2004. I was leaving home when my colleague and her male friend poured a bottle of acid on me over a petty fight at work. I was in the ICU for three months,” said Anu.
In the last 18 years, she has undergone 22 surgeries in Delhi and Mumbai, which cost her Rs 50 lakh. Her family said they received just Rs 2 lakh as compensation from the government.
“It took me six years and several court visits to even send the accused to prison,” she said. The accused, Meena and Qauib, were sentenced to life imprisonment only in 2016.
In an advisory on expediting cases of acid attacks on women, dated 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs wrote: “The issue of apprehending the culprits and fast tracking of justice needs to be seriously considered. The whole objective of providing stringent punishment provisions is to increase the deterrent value against the perpetrators of the crimes. Hence, it is requested that the States/UTs must take proactive measures to expedite investigation, trial of the acid attack cases and bring them under a definite time frame.”
Unfortunately, for others, there has been no closure and in one case, the accused was never identified. It is hoped that the ban on acid sale would help curb, if not altogether stop, the horrific menace.