Pragya Singh: A tale of Acid-attack survivor

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Pragya Singh

The 21st century has to bear the burden of being a witness to raising women’s hate culture in the country. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 2,487 incidents of rape incidence in 1971 while in 2012, the figure was 24,923, which is shockingly a tenfold increase! India reports the total number of dowry deaths with 8,391 such deaths reported in 2010, meaning there are 1.4 deaths per 100,000 women. According to the decennial Indian census, the sex ratio in the 0 to 6 age group in India has risen from 102.4 males per 100 females in 1961 to 108.9 in 2011. And now rising acid attacks are yet another concern for the country who is already dealing with increasing crime rates per day.

In simple words an acid attack also known as vitriol attack is a type of assault on women, at least that’s what people say. But in actuality acid attack is an attempt to ruin women, smash their dignity and destroy their future. About 300 cases are reported each year, but the real figure is probably closer to 1,000. Today, we bring you the story of yet another survivor of this brutal crime, who proved that acid only ruined her face, not her ambitions. Pragya Singh, the acid attack survivor is not only helping herself but had helped change life of over 250 such survivors! This is her story.

Pragya Singh’s story of courage and bravery!

Pragya Singh was just 23 years old back then when her entire identity crumbled around her. Just 12 days after her marriage, the brutal incident took place which changed her life forever! Pragya had received a marriage proposal from a distant relative before she married her husband Sanjay Singh. Pragya was then already engaged so she and her parents turned down the rejection without realizing the shocking aftermath. It was mere 13 days of her happy married life when Pragya was traveling from Varanasi to Delhi on 30th April 2006 to attend her campus placement interview. Around 2 AM have she felt a burning sensation on her face, Unable to respond correctly the victim jumped from 3rd berth out of pain. Her screams brought the entire boogie to witness the scene but none had the confidence to attend her injury. Everyone including Pragya thought that it was a disease that she caught while on the train, but luckily there was a doctor next to her compartment who confirmed it as an acid attack. Two of her co-passengers escorted her to a hospital at Etawah where the train stopped after two hours.

She lied unconscious on the hospital bed for continuous two days, only having a memory of waking up at Safdurjung Hospital, Delhi. For the next two years, Pragya Singh underwent nine reconstructive surgeries; due to the virtuous attack, she lost her hairline, the vision of her left eye and still has problems with her right eye. The young Pragya also lost her right ear completely and is still struggling to keep the hole of the right pinna from contracting! Not only this, but her left arm was also severely burnt and more than half her back and chest were scorched. For the then ambitious Pragya, her life almost came to an end. She refused to leave her room and restraint herself inside the four walls of the dull, empty and hopeless world! 

“I expected the government to help victims like me. But, to my dismay, I found that after the ordeal both I and my parents could not muster the energy to question the laxity and apathy of authorities,” said Pragya Singh.

Pragya Singh

Seven years later, with the help of her husband who refused to leave, Pragya slowly but steadily built her life again. She raised Rs. 30,000 from her friends and relatives and started the Atijeevan Foundation. It is an NGO that works for Acid attack victims and arranges free surgeries and non-surgical treatments for acid attack and burn survivors. They also provide post-operation counseling and workshops for skill-development, to help the victims get a fresh start and reconstruct their stories. As per Pragya Singh, there are very few good hospitals in India that provide quality plastic surgeries. So far she says that the Safdarjung hospital has the best ‘burn unit’, in comparison with all the other hospitals she has been through. According to her, not many hospitals can cope up with High-level burns and exigencies. 

Why do culprits sneak away so easily in India?

Pragya’s culprit was then, caught at Etawah station and the police put him inside the prison. However, due to his strong financial background, he served prison for one and a half years before his family managed to get him out on bail. According to Pragya Singh, they also bribed the public prosecutor with a high sum of money and also the judge handling her case at the Allahabad High Court. The judgment too came out in 2008, almost 6 years after the attack, and the accused was only granted three years in jail to complete his four and half year prison sentence.

But why do we such a slow justice system? Why do culprits of such gruesome crimes sneak out so easily? Why does the state does not compensate the survivors? There are a lot of such questions that are left still unanswered among the crowd and piles of daily cases. Though the country has some strict laws and punishment regarding the acid attack, yet not much change has come on our way. Under Section 326A Indian Penal Court, surpassed a law of minimum 10 years of imprisonment, whereas depending upon the sensitivity of the crime, it may expand to life imprisonment. Still, the perpetrators are left untouched. Do you know that in Noida a five-liter can of hydrochloric acid be bought in Rs.100? Though in 2013, Supreme Court ordered to cross the check the sale and purchase of acid attack and some strict guidelines were introduced. It was important to provide a photo and a copy of the identity card to buy any such acid so that the buyer can be traced in any untoward case. But very few regulations are observed these days. So where do we lack? In implementation or execution? It is a big question that needs our understanding and recognizing such crime.   

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