On Monday, a 32-year-old woman was returning home at around 4.30 pm on her scooter after dropping her children to a tuition class. Little did she know that she would become an acid-attack victim. She suffered nearly 40 per cent burns on different parts of her body after two bike-borne men in Sector 23, Sanjay Nagar, Ghaziabad, splashed acid on her.
The incident —not an isolated case in a patriarchal India, especially in UP, where incidents of rage against women are a way of life — once again puts the spotlight on the unchecked sale and purchase of acid in the city. While its sale is rampant in the suburbs of Ghaziabad, this lethal weapon has unregulated presence even in the posh markets of high-rise apartments.
City Spidey did a recce of markets in Rajnagar Extension (River Heights market complex and Aura Chimera Market complex); in Indirapuram (markets in Shipra Suncity; Sunrise Green Market complex near Shipra Sun tower); and those found in Sector 4 and 5 in Vaishali — and found the acid readily available.
“It’s very normal. Neither us nor the buyer is aware of any regulation behind its sale and purchase,” a shopkeeper in Vaishali, Sector 4 market, said on condition of anonymity.
The Supreme Court in 2013* had directed all states and union territories to issue acid-sale licences to select retailers. Any outlet authorised to sell the volatile liquid was mandated to ask buyers for address proof and a photo identity card, so they could be traced in the event of a police case. Minors were not allowed to purchase acid.
A general provisions store in a market complex, situated on the road opposite to Arihant Harmony in Ahinsa Khand II, has in-bulk availability of concentrated Hydrochloric acid. The shopowner, however, admitted of being aware of the directive, but said the authorities never asked him to produce a license for selling acid. “I know about the SC order, but if the authorities are not asking me to get a license, why would I?” was his noncommittal reply.
When City Spidey spoke about the prevailing attitude with FedAOA president Alok Kumar, also a resident of Arihant Harmony, he reacted with shock and surprise. He said, “We will request the authorities to make raids on such unchecked places.”
And how do police officials figure in the scenario?
Sarvesh Kumar, chowki-in-charge of Sihani Chungi, said, “The police has no role in keeping records of sale/purchase of acids. The record is submitted to the license-issuing authority.”
Ravi Kumar, circle officer of Indirapuram, was also clueless when asked whether the police stations keep the records of shops selling acids, or of its purchase. He, in fact, demanded to see the SC order!
This slack approach results in a heavy price for the victims.
Since 2014, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) started compiling the data of acid attacks separately. Their records till 2016 show that over 631 incidents have happened in three years across India — and, of course, Uttar Pradesh tops the lists.
Expressing concern, Lipika Bhushan, a resident of ATS Advantage in Indirapuram, said, “The government needs to seriously look into implementation of orders at the ground level — having laws is not enough, they need the teeth of implementation.”
“This is a grave threat — incidents of rage against women are way too common and if acid sale is not regulated despite SC orders, we have no protection.”
City Spidey tried to contact the SDM (city) Vivek Mishra, the nodal officer for tracking acid sale/purchase, but the calls went unanswered.
*In July 2013, the Supreme Court brought the sale of acid under The Poisons Possession and Sales Rules, 2013, thereby including at least a dozen acids in the list of poisons
*The states were asked to impose a fine of Rs50,000 on sellers who failed to maintain a register on personal information about buyers
* The seller will also have to “ascertain before selling any poison the name, telephone and address of the purchaser and the purpose for which the poison is purchased”
*Most importantly, acid could also be sold by a licensed retailer
[Source: Various news articles]