THE SUNDAY STORY In most cases, acid attacks permanently disfigure and eventually destroy the victim, both physically and psychologically. The victims need short- and long-term medical facilities in the form of specialised plastic surgery.
No one seems to know the fate of the Scheme for Relief and Rehabilitation of Offences (by acids) on Women and Children, which the National Commission for Women (NCW) prepared in consultation with women’s groups in the early 2000s.
National Commission for Women chairperson Mamata Sharma says she did not know of any such proposal or scheme. The Commission had suggested enhanced punishment for those found guilty of acid attack on a woman, ranging from seven years to life imprisonment.
On its part, the Ministry of Women and Child Development says there was a proposal prepared some years ago to provide monetary relief and rehabilitation to acid attack victims, but that has remained on paper because the States were not enthusiastic.
In most cases, acid attacks permanently disfigure and eventually destroy the victim, both physically and psychologically. The victims need short- and long-term medical facilities in the form of specialised plastic surgery. But it is almost impossible for the victim’s family to pay for the extensive surgeries.
The scheme, which was to become a law eventually, envisaged an immediate compensation of Rs. 50,000 to an acid attack victim for treatment. That would extend up to Rs. 25 lakh, depending on the nature of injuries and treatment required. In the case of death, the legal heir or the family was entitled to Rs. 2 lakh in compensation. This was in addition to any expense incurred for the treatment of victims. The immediate relief was to be granted by the Criminal Injuries Relief and Rehabilitation Board at the district level which would report to a similar Board at the State level. There would also be a National Criminal Injuries Compensation Board at the Centre.
To be chaired by the chairperson of the National Commission for Women, the National Criminal Injuries Compensation Board would administer the scheme, lay down procedures and policies and review from time to time the quantum payable to the victims as relief. It was to recommend to the government any fee, tax, or charge to be levied on any person, body or association or manufacturers dealing in chemicals, including creating a consortium of acid and chemical manufacturers on whom the government may levy licence or such other fees which could be used to form a corpus fund out of which immediate compensation could be given.
However, the District Boards, headed by the Collector, had the exclusive jurisdiction to deal with applications. They would coordinate with the District Monitoring Committee to arrange for psychological and medical aid and initiate suitable measures to ensure the protection of the victim and witnesses.
There was also a provision that no health facility — whether private or public — would refuse treatment to such a victim; a police report or an FIR would not be a precondition. Appropriate governments in consultation with the National Board and Monitoring Committee were to frame guidelines to regulate and control the sale, distribution and procurement of acids in any form.
The scheme figured in the Annual Reports of the NCW until 2008-09, but was replaced with a new scheme for relief and rehabilitation of rape victims. “The last we heard was that the acid attack relief scheme was to be covered under the scheme for rape victims but there is no mention of acid victims in the new scheme,” says Sudha Sundararaman of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, she added.
Recently, Haryana notified a scheme titled ‘Relief and Rehabilitation of Women Acid Victims’ to provide ad hoc relief, medical reimbursement and rehabilitation services to acid victims. Only those who faced acid attack after May 2, 2011 and residing in the State would be eligible.
It is broadly based on the scheme prepared by the NCW, with the district-level boards empowered to pay Rs. 25,000 immediately and provide free treatment in hospitals notified for the purpose. In the case of death, the family would get Rs. 5 lakh.