Acidic Life

Aaj phir ek phool waqt se pehle murjhaya

Phir ek mard ne apni “mardangi” ka parcha dikhaya

Jin baalon pe kabhi maa se choti bandhwati thi

Jin aankhon ko dekh pita ki thakaan mit jaati thi

Jin gaalo ko bhai sharaarat mein kheecha karte the

Jin hoto se woh pyaare geet gaati thi

Jal gaye woh tezaab ki holi mein

Kisi begairat ke intekaam ki bhet

Aaj phir ek phool waqt se pehle murjhaya

Phir ek mard ne apni “mardangi” ka parcha dikhaya

———————————–ENGLISH—————————————–

Once again, a flower withered away prematurely

Once again, a man demonstrated his “manhood”

 

Locks which mother used to tie up

Eyes that used to make father forget his fatigue

Cheeks that a brother used to pull in pranks

Lips that sung melodies

 

Burnt now in the acid rain

Victim of a bastard’s revenge

Once again, a flower withered away prematurely

Once again, a man demonstrated his “manhood”

———————————————————————————————

ImageIt is a busy Bandra terminus in the heat of May and a 24 something, ambitious Delhi girl, ready to join the coveted position of military nurse in the Colaba Naval Hospital `INS Ashwini’ , after beating thousands of other candidates, is standing with her father at the station. The father-daughter just got off the Garib Rath at the station when a masked man hurled acid at her face. After battling for a month at the Bombay Hospital, she passed away on June 1st. The case of Preeti Rathi, as her name was, joins those hundreds of acid attack cases across India that awaits justice.

According to a New Delhi-based group Stop Acid Attacks, three acid attacks are reported in India every week.  Since these are “reported”, we can safely double or triple the “actual” number of cases.

As Stalin said, “One death is a tragedy. A million is a statistic”. Sadly, the Indian government plays by this rule and it only takes few hundred for it to become statistic. It was in February 2013, the Supreme Court of India asked the Parliament to introduce a plan for regulation on the OTC sale of acid, especially acid, but no action has been taken. The new deadline in July 16. If government still doesn’t act, SC will form its own order. However, there is no clarity on how it will be implemented.

Hydrochloric acid, most commonly used for acid attacks by the perpetrators, is available throughout the country on any grocery store in a liter bottle for a mere 20-30 bucks (33 to 50 cents). Even though it mentions “industrial use”, it is commonly used for non-industrial purposes. It is often used as a cleaning agent at houses but it has the power of burning down the human flesh.

It is an unfortunate lethargy of the government, which will continue to result in few more hundreds of women to taste the acid. While the immediate step required is to regulate the acid sale, there is a larger problem that needs to be solved.

Acid Sale Regulation:

The easiest thing that government can do right now is to ban the OTC sale of acid. While the bottles itself write “industrial use”, sale at grocery shops is an easy access for the attackers. While banning will not eradicate the problem, it will surely bring down the number of cases drastically. Sale through only authorized government shops, only to industries and laboratories, with proper monitoring of the acid purchase through identification of buyer will restrict the use of acid.

Image

Sonali Mukherjee

Strict Implementation of Laws:

It’s ironic that India’s less developed neighbor, Bangladesh, has imposed death penalty for acid attacks and restricted the sale of acid. However, the Indian government, after Nirbhaya rape case, included acid attacks as a punishable crime with a minimum of 10 years imprisonment. However, the work doesn’t end there. Sonali Mukherjee, an NCC cadet from Dhanbad, was attacked on April 22, 2003, while she was asleep. The three perpetrators were sentenced to 9 years in jail but were released on bail, following an appeal in High Court.  Today, they are enjoying their lives while Sonali fights for justice.  There are numerous other cases where justice is distant as families of accused are close to the powerful.

Inclusion of Financial Penalty to the Convicted:

Although the Indian government has made acid attacks as a punishable crime with a minimum of 10 years imprisonment, it dropped the proposal for perpetrators to compensate victims, which also includes the medical expenses. Besides the emotional trauma, one of the greatest tragedies of these incidents is the financial burden that falls on victim’s families to provide medical treatment to victims. Lakshmi was only 15 when she was attacked in a broad daylight near Khan Market in New Delhi in 2005. The reason was that she refused a boy to marry. Since the attack, about one million rupees has been spent on Lakshmi’s treatment, mostly paid by her father’s former employer. However, everybody doesn’t have such financial support.

Given the scale of treatment costs, it is imperative that government include financial penalty to the convicted that covers the medical expenses. If government cannot do that, they should pay for it.

Rehabilitation of Victim:

While the physical pain of acid attack is definitely unimaginable, the mental pain of finding your place back in the society is equally, if not more, killing. Victims live with the gaze and frown of the society till they die. Government should also help the victims in terms of ensuring jobs. The greatest help that a government, and as a society we, can do is to help victims bring back their confidence. Victims like Preeti and Sonali, at the doorstep of a promising career in the fields of medical and defense, and Laxmi, assumingly eager to achieve something great in life, shatter within seconds because the government failed to ban one acid in the open market.

GREATEST CHANGE – THE MINDSET:

While the above points are all post-attack measures, there is something that we, as a society, can do to prevent such incidents in the future. A huge majority of these cases occur due to adamancy of rejected lovers and stalkers to “win” the women of their fantasies at any cost. While the Indian men have lived in a society where women are seen as submissive, a rejection is seen as a power victory.  And when they know you can’t win the battle, they aim to do maximum damage to the enemy. For women, and what even our society considers, it is their beauty.

Unless, consideration of women as an equal part of the society and acknowledgment of their legal, social and human rights is taught to men right from the school and demonstrated as well in our society, the menace will not eradicate.

Our neighbor, Bangladesh, has taken active steps to bring about changes and the results have shown a decrease in acid attacks since 2002. May be we should pick up some pointers from them.

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2 thoughts on “Acidic Life

  1. I agree to the fact that the solution to the root problem is a change in the mindset. The society is yet to evolve a lot…The expected conduct for both the genders is very strongly defined by us… Any deviation is considered a strong offence.Gender differences are always going to be der (Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus)..While appreciating those differences.. creating an atmosphere that provides equal opportunity for both to grow and participate in every aspect of society is essential…

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