Despite SC Order, Acid Attack Survivors Left Without Compensation
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Thirty five years ago, it was the month of May. Premlata remembers clearly the summer which changed her life forever.
Premlata, then 15, was at her father’s place in Delhi. Things were not going down well at her in-laws’ place, whom she suspected of running a prostitution racket from their home. It was for this reason that Premlata had started living with her father and mother.
As she lied down under the tree to get respite from heat, a man who was allegedly paid by her husband poured acid on Premlata.
Even though Premlata’s husband was sentenced to jail for ten years, there was no mechanism of awarding compensation to acid attack survivors back then.
Her father who was a fruit seller exhausted all their resources in trying to arrange funds for Premlata’s treatment.
It was only in 2013 when the Supreme Court issued guidelines in Laxmi vs Union of India regarding compensation by state governments.
When Premlata approached the DSLSA (Delhi State Legal Services Authority), the nodal agency that assesses damages and decides the amount to be disbursed, she was told that hers is an ‘old’ case and no compensation can be given now.
A quarrel with her husband in 2002 over the decision to continue working took a dastardly turn for Shamima. She was attacked with acid by her husband who wanted her to quit the job at a garment manufacturing factory in Delhi.
Though an FIR was filed, following the pressure by her in-laws, Shamima decided to take back the case. She has also filled the form recently claiming compensation, hoping to support her family with the money.
In 2019, Shamima lost her elder son to drug addiction. She continues to live with her mother and would like to start working as well. But the financial condition of the family is not good. Even purchasing a cylinder worth Rs 700 is tough. Shamima has also applied for disability pension which will ensure monthly allowance of Rs 3,000.
The cases of both Shamima and Premlata highlight the need for a proper rehabilitation plan for acid attack survivors. Due to lack of awareness survivors are approaching respective nodal agencies and courts now demanding that they be given due compensation.
Over the years, after the acid attack incident, while Premlata has undergone 13 reconstructive procedures, Shamima has had 4 operations just so that she can see from her left eye.
According to activists like Shaheen Malik, who has been helping acid attack survivors fight legal cases, compensation should include not just cost of recovery but also enable these survivors to move on in life.
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