An open letter to the State to deliver justice for acid victims
On October 2, 2013, Rekha was attacked with acid by her husband. Soon afterwards, her parents passed away. Rekha’s estranged brother and sister are not willing to shoulder any responsibility for her. Her two-year-old daughter no longer recognises her mother, and is terrified of her. Battling severe depression, Rekha is diagnosed with clinical instability. She is now undergoing treatment for several serious medical complications: infected wounds on her head and face, ulcerated food pipe and intestines, jaundice, kidney or uterus infection. Pregnant at the time of the attack, Rekha lost the baby due to shock. She has already undergone reconstructive surgery. However, doctors have said that further reconstructive surgery can take place only after the above complications are treated.
Make Love Not Scars, an organisation which works with acid attack survivors, has already spent Rs3 lakh on Rekha’s treatment. The hospital where Rekha is undergoing treatment has subsidised her treatment. Make Love Not Scars needs more funds to support Rekha’s treatment first to treat the complications mentioned above and then to resume reconstructive surgery.
The chairperson of the state women’s commission has visited Rekha. But even two years after the attack, the government is yet to cough up a single rupee in compensation. This — despite the Centre amending the Indian Penal Code in 2013, to deal specifically with victims of acid attack. The reason cited for non-payment of the legally entitled compensation money is confusion over the authenticity of the survivor’s name which is Rathna HK in her bank account — but Rekha ( her nickname) in the FIR. Make Love Not Scars has already furnished a letter from the Village Administrative Officer, clarifying the identity confusion. Below is the letter written by Make Love Not Scars to the ministers of Home Affairs/ Women and Child Development seeking timely release of compensation for acid attack survivors:
We are writing to you today to bring to your attention the lack of efficiency with which our system handles the release of government compensation.
According to Section 357 C, all hospitals, public or private, whether run by central government, state government, local bodies or any other entity, shall immediately provide free first-aid or medical treatment to the victims. At present, government hospitals (where treatment is free) have a higher death rate due to infections even before a patient can be taken in for surgery.
Through this letter, we are just asking you to ensure that these survivors get what is rightfully theirs and that they get it on time. If the compensation is released on time, the survivors could get better treatment as well as trauma counselling, which is not only crucial but also vital when dealing with trauma of this magnitude.
One such survivor is Rekha from Bangalore, by far one of the worst cases of acid attacks. Disfigured to the point that her own two-year-old daughter is frightened at the look of her. The chairperson of the state women’s commission (Karnataka) has visited Rekha, but she is yet to get even a single rupee of help from the state government, even a year and half after the acid attack. We request you to take prompt action towards making sure that Rekha gets what is rightfully hers. We also want this to not be a one-off case but make sure that this aids the implementation of the compensation scheme in the future as well.
There is no point of a scheme if people don’t benefit from it. If this issue is not handled today, it will only escalate tomorrow.
—The Logical Indian
A Joint Initiative by Make Love Not Scars & The Logical Indian
Ria Sharma is the founder of Make Love Not Scars, a youth driven NGO that works in all aspects of rehabilitation in the field of acid attacks in India. Ria finished her schooling from pathways World School in Gurgaon and has a BA (Hons) degree in fashion from Leeds College Of Art in the United Kingdom. A young individual that believes in the power of justice, the strength of the human spirit and the next generation that is ready to help eradicate social stigma. Determined to bring about change, the term impossible is just another opportunity in her opinion.