By Ria Sharma:
Our campaign that was meant to raise funds for a Mumbai based acid attack victim, just reached $8968. Its original target was $2200. So you can imagine how elated I was when the campaign ended and we were able to raise much more than we intended on. If I had my way, every campaign I put up would be for more than $6000, but the scare of people not donating when they see the target amount to be so large is always a factor one has to think hard about.
Acid attack victims often need multiple surgeries and for most of the people who think that the medical procedures start and end with cosmetic surgery, they couldn’t be more wrong. I know this is a common view, as I myself used to be one of those people. The truth however is way different from our perception of it. Cosmetic surgery comes into play much later and the initial rounds of surgeries involve the grafting of skin from different parts of the body onto the face to avoid infections. These grafts often don’t latch onto the burnt skin, not only leaving wounds where the skin was grafted from but also implying that it’s time for another graft to be moulded.
Eye correction is another crucial part of the initial round; this involves continuously trying to correct the eye lid in order to save the victims vision. These surgeries are just a few of the many that are carried out in the first few months of an attack. Sadly, most government hospitals where the treatment is supposed to be free are not capable of handling such complicated procedures and the victims often don’t have the funds to buy the best treatment in town. So what do these victims do? They then go on to becoming the lost faces of India.
Most of the funds raised for the lost faces are obtained via crowd funding, so there’s no doubt that its odd that I would be writing this article. Even though crowd funding enables us to raise more money for the victim, keeping aside the measly government compensation of INR.3 lakh, I feel that it is important that people finally know the truth about crowd funding and why we actually have to resort to it.
Like I mentioned earlier, it is important to note that with an attack of this kind, the patient normally requires multiple surgeries and years and years of recovery time. Now let’s ask ourselves this question, would INR 3 Lakh cover these intricate procedures, endless years of recovery and substitute for all the years of livelihood the victim has lost? As much as I wish the answer to that question was a yes, it’s a no- but you know what’s even sadder? That question doesn’t even arise because no one even receives the compensation that they are entitled to!
I wish we didn’t have to resort to crowd funding because these girls deserve what is rightfully theirs, but unfortunately, obtaining their rights from the government is a mission in itself. My first instinct on being given a fresh case would be to call up our lawyers and get the compensation released but I have often found myself living in a fantasy when I make such demands. Demands that are not even demands but basic rights; the truth is that in India, these rights don’t come easy and justice is not for the poor. Even though we have raised ample funds for Reshma (the Bombay based 17-year-old who was a victim of a gruesome acid attack), I find myself in deep contemplation as to why we even had to raise these funds. Reshma is yet to receive her compensation; her attack took place in the month of May 2014. If Reshma had received the funds in time her family wouldn’t have had to sell their valuables in order to get her initial medical attention. Even though the amount allotted to these girls is not nearly adequate enough to cover the entire cost of their treatment, it is crucial to have it released on time so that the victim can at least have a fighting chance of saving some part of her face. Even getting something as basic as the funds you are entitled to, costs the victim money in order to peruse it in court.
Either way, if the government thinks that a girl who is lying on her death bed with 3rd degree burns is in any state to go through the lengthy process of fighting for what is rightfully hers, I would want to remind them that she will have to do that anyway once her case goes on trial, why make her life harder than it already is? I think it’s safe to say that the Modi government has a lot to think about; I think this is something they should think of too.
Handling various survivors, their multiple cases in different states all over India- and all I see are loopholes. Whether it’s the Andhra Pradesh government only allotting Rs.50,000 per victim or nothing at all. I have seen survivors lying in hospital beds while their distraught relatives run around courts and lawyers trying to get funds for the victim’s treatment. I have seen acid attacks destroy strong and healthy families. I have seen faces melt to the floor while the victim’s tears fall with it. Yes, her face is just an ‘it’ now, nothing more, nothing less. Features? What are features? Let’s just hope she has her eyes at the end of it so that she can see her non-existent face every day. That’s all she has left now.
About the author: Ria Sharma is the founder of Make Love Not Scars.