Two days after judgment was delivered in a case of acid attack on Ritu Saini (19), 30 months after she was attacked by two motorcycleborne youths for spurning her cousin’s advances, HT staff reporter Sat Singh spoke to the survivor on her life between May 26, 2012, the day she was attacked, and December 23, 2014, when the court gave the verdict.
Two of the accused were sentenced for life, while three were given 10 years in jail. Excerpts:
Finally acid attackers in your case were punished by law. Are you satisfied with the verdict?
I have mixed feelings. Sometimes, I feel it was good that judgment was delivered in my case, though after two-and-a-half-years. At other times, my mind says punishment should have been harsher as survivors like me were already living a pathetic life. The convicts may have some relaxing moments in jail, but pain on my face will keep reminding me of the horrible incident.
How did your life go from the day you were attacked to the day court gave its verdict?
From being a bubbly girl next door, I became an acid attack victim who had to undergo surgery while my parents exhausted themselves in arranging money for my treatment. Though the previous Congress government declared compensation of Rs 20 lakh for my treatment but the payment came against bills. I had no money to get treated first. Several such things made the situation more horrible.
I got solace after I joined ‘Stop Acid Attack’ a New Delhi-based organisation, where acid attack survivors like me were being encouraged to be selfdependent and raise voice to stop more such attacks. With support from ‘Stop Acid Attack’, several survivors like me were roped in to run a cafeteria at Agra near Taj Mahal in UP.
What should one do immediately, if acid is hurled?
The affected body part should be washed with water and it should be ensured that acid does not spread to other parts of body. In my case, if someone had washed my face with water, I would have not lost my eye and damage would have been much less. Shockingly, even doctors at several government hospitals are ill-prepared to handle such cases and they keep referring patients to other hospitals.
What about treatment cost? The Haryana government had announced 20 lakh for you.
I had withdrawn Rs 6 lakh, which was used during my initial treatment. But after the change of guard in the state, I am facing difficulty in getting second instalment of Rs 8 lakh to get treatment for eye. My family members were running pillar to post for arranging documents sought by the Rohtak district administration.
But there is a positive environment after the BJP came to power in Delhi and Haryana
During the acid attack survivors’ agitation in Delhi to press their legitimate demands of ban of counter sale of acid and setting up of fast track court to deliver early judgment, we were dealt with iron hands by security agencies. Some of acid attack survivors were physically dragged by male constables of Delhi police when our agitation reached outside Parliament House. But, we are getting big support from the online community through social networking sites to get the demands materialised at the earliest.
What can be done to lessen an acid attack victim’s suffering?
The government should ensure that the compensation amount is given within 15 days of incident. The charge-sheet against assailants should be filed within 15 days and they should be punished by fast track court within three months. Survivors should not be subjected to make rounds of government offices for getting compensation and they should be given job to start their life anew.