Once a bubbly and fun-loving girl, 17-year-old Prerna Gandhi, a Class-12 arts student at DAV School, Haryana, has turned a recluse since the acid attack on her on June 18, 2011.
Manohar Lal Gandhi, her grandfather, who has been fighting the legal battle for her, says: "She has become shy of strangers. She doesn't like to mix up with her peer group and has turned into an introvert. She was once a lively, outspoken and confident girl."
Gandhi, a retired government employee from the state labour department, says: "The attack shattered her world and confidence."
She was returning from tuition on a Scooty with her friend Yashika riding pillion. Another friend Urvashi was driving another Scooty. Two men came from the opposite direction and threw acid on the three of them."
"Prerna, who was driving the Scooty, bore the brunt of the attack. Her face was defaced and arms disfigured. The two other girls suffered 10% to 15% burns with no major threat to lead a normal life," Gandhi said.
Prerna dreams of becoming an artist or a psychologist, her grandfather said.
VICTIM OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY
Prerna's grandfather Manohar Lal Gandhi said police investigation found that it was Yashika's aunt Geeta who wanted to harm her owing to a family dispute. Geeta hired two men, Jitender and Navin, and gave them Yashika's Scooty number and told them that she returns from tuition around 6.30pm. Incidentally, on that day, Prerna requested Yashika if she could drive the Scooty. As a result, the attackers threw a jar of acid on her, mistaking her to be Yashika.
ROLE OF COURT IN COMING TO THE RESCUE OF VICTIM
"In spite of a policy by the Haryana government to rehabilitate acid attack victims, which was formulated in May 2011, a month before Prerna was attacked, we were refused free treatment by the health authorities," Gandhi said.
"The state government was adamant on providing free treatment at either the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Rohtak, or the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, but we wanted the treatment conducted at Apollo Hospital, New Delhi," he added.
To seek relief and proper investigation into the case, Gandhi knocked the doors of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which issued directions to the National Legal Service Authority (NLSA).
The NLSA passed the case to the Haryana State Legal Service Authority, which filed a petition in Punjab and Haryana high court on December 2011.
He said: "It was after the high court directed the CBI to conduct an investigation into the case, the main culprit, according to Prerna was his classmate, also a minor and son of a businessman, was involved in the investigation."
He said the high court directed the state government to pay them Rs 15-lakh compensation against their medical bills of around Rs 30 lakh.
Receiving the court orders, the government amended its policy in January 2013 to allow acid attack victims to get their treatment done from any approved hospital in India and the cost would be borne by the government.
"Nothing can compensate Prerna for the loss but treatment in a hospital of our choice has come as a relief," Gandhi added.