An acid attack by her stalker nearly four years ago left Archana Kumari, daughter of uneducated labourers from Uttar Pradesh blind in one eye, partially deaf, melted half her face and skull; and left her with restricted use of her arms. The family had to flee their native village fearing more violence and isolation and have been living in hiding with relatives ever since.
But it isn’t Archana’s permanent handicaps or the fact that her family is now totally debt-ridden because of her rising medical expenses that has this fighter ready to give up the battle.
“The Government has asked me to submit adequate proof of me being an acid attack victim before I could be sanctioned complete monetary support. This has left me and my parents bewildered,” said Archana. “With no money to carry on my treatment we were forced to approach the Government for help recently and this is the response that we have got,” she added.
Recalling the moment which changed her life, Archana said: “I was attacked on November 12, 2009, by my neighbour who had been stalking and sexually harassing me for over two years. The man just walked into my house and poured acid on me. My parents panicked and my father rushed me to a nearby healthcare centre. I was sent to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital from there. We have never gone back since then. Every day since the attack, it has been a struggle to stay alive.”
Following the incident, fear had prevented the family from lodging a police complaint and they couldn’t keep all the medical records and bills, said Archana. But this now is coming in the way of Archana’s family being able to secure Government compensation. “Till recently I did not know that I could get any compensation for my treatment. But now that we have approached the Government for help we are being asked to submit our police complaint about the incident, old medical records and bills to sanction any monetary assistance to me. We feel helpless.”
The acid attack has financially ruined the family. “While I am getting my basic treatment from Safdarjung Hospital, my family has been funding all additional medical costs (equipments, medicines, tests, medical dressings etc) by either selling my mother’s jewellery or taking loans from people. We have nothing left,” said Archana.
“So far we have spent over Rs. 5 lakh on my treatment, transport, food and stay but now we have reached a dead-end and only the Government can help us from here on,” she said.
Archana’s mother Munni Devi wonders what more would it take than Archana’s state itself for the family to secure Government help. “My child’s entire body is a proof of what she has been through. We are simple village people and are totally at our wits’ end about how to fund her medical bills now. We shudder to think of what will happen to a partially blind, deaf girl with so many medical complications without any help in the world after we (parents) die. I appeal to the Government to not dismiss our case because we lack adequate papers.”
The family has now appealed to the Central Government to help Archana and give her a job to secure her future.
Reacting to Archana’s case, Union Minister of Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath said on Saturday: “There is no way that we will allow any woman to suffer any injustice and in Archana’s case she is getting treatment from Safdarjung Hospital. We will soon look into any other requirement that she has.”