The supreme court’s observation on Friday that the centre and the state were not doing enough for the rehabilitation of acid attack victims, has rekindled hope among injured parties whose wait for succour has been endless.
For, a year after the court issued guidelines to regulate the sale of acids and ordered states to compensate and rehabilitate the injured parties, little appears to have changed for the likes of Bihar acid attack victim Chanchal Kumari.
Kumari, 20, from Maner in Bihar's Patna district, was among the victims who were profiled in HT's 'Wake up India/Stop Acid Attacks' campaign, last year, bringing her gut wrenching plight in sharp public focus.
But till date, Chanchal has neither received any help from the state by way of monetary compensation nor has any effort been made by it for her rehabilitation.
"Leave alone any financial or medical assistance, no official has even tried to contact me since the apex court passed the order", said Chanchal, through her father Sailesh Paswan, a dalit daily wage labourer.
Sailesh said Chanchal had recently undergone surgeries at New Delhi's Safdarjung hospital to address injuries below her eye and on the neck. But the expenses were borne out of the monetary help received from individuals and NGOs.
"Surgeries for reconstruction of Chanchal's completely disfigured face are expected to commence in August. A man running a campaign against acid attacks has promised to meet the expenses", he told HT.
It was on July 18 last year that the apex court had directed states and union territories to frame regulatory rules for this purpose "within three months" of the date of the order and take steps for their implementation.
Though the apex court directives have not brought any relief to Chanchal even a year after they were issued, the Bihar government insists it had done all that was required of it to be in full compliance with the court's order.
"The law department is already overseeing the task of providing compensation for the acid attack victims under the relevant provisions of the revised law", Amir Subhani, Bihar's principal secretary (home) told HT on Friday.
Subhani said rules had been framed and stringent guidelines regarding the storage and sale of acids had been issued. "Sub divisional officers have been made the monitoring and implementing authority for this purpose", he added.
This had a reference to the Bihar Poisons Possession and Sale Rules, 2014, adopted earlier this year in order to control storage, sale and purchase of acids used in attack on women.
But there appeared to be little awareness about the new rules at the ground level, a quick enquiry by HT showed on Friday.
Chanchal's face was destroyed in an acid attack at her native Chitnawan village, under Maner police station of Patna district, about 30 km west of the state capital, on October 21, 2012.
A few minutes short of midnight, four youth from her village, whose amorous advances she had rebuffed, climbed onto the roof of her single-storeyed Indira Awas Yojana house at Chitnawan and poured almost a litre of acid on her face.
The July 2013 SC order directing states to provide to acid attack victims a compensation of at least Rs 3 lakh as after-care and rehabilitation cost, had brought hope to Chanchal. They now stand dashed.
"Apart from an initial compensation of Rs 2.42 lakh provided at the behest of the scheduled caste commission, which came prior to the apex court order, I have not received any other assistance from the government", said Sailesh, her father.
"Besides, those booked in connection with the attack on my daughter got bail, despite the supreme court's order to make acid attack a non-bailable offence", he added.
Chanchal, he said, dreamt of becoming a computer engineer."But till date she remains without a face", said the hapless father, who has to keep counseling his daughter out of bouts of severe depression.
"She has started going back to the computer training institute she was enrolled in at the time of her acid attack. She goes there with her face hidden behind a veil. But this is necessary for her to find any meaning to her life destroyed", Sailesh stated.