‘Compensation should be increased manifold because the sum is meagre, compared to the actual expenditure on treatment’

Medical experts have welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling on acid attacks, but have sought more burn- and skin-grafting centres and more compensation for victims. At present, major burn treatment centres operate only in Delhi and Mumbai.

“Victims … should be rushed immediately to the nearest burn hospital, and skin should be grafted within a day or two to prevent infection. Regrettably, we do not have adequate burn centres or skin collection centres in India, and municipal centres are not well equipped,” according to N.K. Pandey, managing director of the Asian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS).

“In the event of an acid attack, the first thing to do is to wash the affected area with a lot of water. Keep pouring water for 20-30 minutes to wash off all the acid and reduce the time that the acid is in contact with the skin,” says P.K. Talwar, director of the Cosmetic Laser Surgery Centre of India (CLSCI).

On recovery, acid attack survivors also face mental health issues. Acid attack victims suffer from higher levels of anxiety and depression, and score higher on the Derriford Appearance Scales, which measure psychological distress due to an individual’s concern for appearance.

Shock, anger, self-pity and acceptance are the emotions that surface in the aftermath of an acid attack, according to Sunil Mittal, leading psychologist and director of Delhi Psychiatry Centre (DCP).

Victims have to undergo reconstructive surgeries. The prominent effect of an acid attack is lifelong bodily disfigurement. Consequently, the victim faces physical challenges, which require long-term surgical treatment, and psychological challenges, which require in-depth intervention from psychologists and counsellors at each stage of physical recovery. “These far-reaching effects on their lives impact their psychological, social and economic viability in communities,” says Kaveshver Ghura, consultant, plastic surgery, at AIMS.

On Thursday last, the Supreme Court passed an interim order to regulate the sale of acid across the country. It banned the over-the-counter sale at retail outlets and ordered a compensation of Rs. 3 lakh from the State governments to each acid attack victim.

However, according to experts, the compensation should be increased manifold because the sum is meagre compared with the actual expenditure on treatment and surgeries.

Every year, an estimated 80 per cent of the 1,500 acid attacks reported worldwide are directed at women. The perpetrators are predominantly rejected suitors and husbands.Acid Survivors Trust International, a London-based charity, says 1,500 attacks are reported globally every year. Eighty per cent of the victims are female, and somewhere between 40 per cent and 70 per cent under 18 years.

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