Geeta Gayen (40), mother of three children, was attacked with acid on January 13 for spurning the advances of another man at Swarupnagar in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district. After struggling for life with severe burns on her face, hands, and chest, she died on March 7.
“She died for no fault of hers. She used earn Rs. 5,000 a month and helped support the family. Now, I take care of my children all by myself,” Geeta’s husband Bharat Gayen, who works as rickshaw-puller, told The Hindu on Saturday.
Geeta Gayen’s is the first reported case of acid attack in West Bengal in 2014 but not the last.
Higher than in 2013
With 12 such cases registered so far, acid attacks in the State have doubled in only eight months of 2014 as against the six attacks reported in 2013.
“While 10 persons were injured in six incidents of acid attacks in the State in 2013, this year 21 have suffered burn injuries in 12 such incidents,” Anita D’Souza, joint director of Acid Survivors Foundation India (ASFI), told The Hindu.
The figures presented by the ASFI have been compiled on the basis of media reports and replies to Right to Information queries.
Avijit Kumar, assistant director (headquarters), ASFI, said that from January 2010 to July 2014, about 518 persons had been victimsall over the country.In the four-and-a-half years, Delhi and the adjoining (National Capital Region) have recorded 90 such victims — the highest in the country. Uttar Pradesh came second with 71 victims, and West Bengal third, with 65 injured.
Poor law enforcement
In West Bengal, representatives of ASFI have expressed concern that rules pertaining to the sale of acid are not properly monitored or adhered to in the State. The rate of attacks has been increasing alarmingly; eight out of the 12 attacks reported since January this year, have occurred July and August alone.
The last attack took place on August 25 in a State-run hospital, in which seven people were injured. According to administrative sources, it was only after this incident that the police took cognisance of the easy availability of acid for criminal purposes, and began to conduct raids.
In a letter addressed to the State Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra, ASFI wrote, “One of the most important steps identified by us for controlling the number of incidents is to control the sale of acid over the counter by strictly enforcing the directives of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, issued on July 18, 2014.”