Incidents of acid attack underscore the point that there is a need to change culturally. The attacks — generally on young women — are mostly personal in nature, to settle scores, and to destroy them physically and psychologically. The motive is not believed to be homicidal, but is surely malicious in intent, a violent retaliation to rejection. Acid attacks are recognised as crime but the easy availability has prevented a check on it. There are four aspects said to be of importance — licensing the sale of acid; recording the purpose of purchase; identifying the buyer; and, the age of the purchaser. This is what the Union Territory of Chandigarh has now done in pursuance of the directive of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The UT has made it clear that over-the-counter sale of acid is prohibited, the seller will have to maintain a record, the buyer too will have to establish his credentials, and in any case, it will not be sold to persons below 18 years of age. The High Court had wanted to know if the directions given by the Supreme Court in Laxmi’s case — the subject of the movie Chhapaak — against the unregulated sale of acid, were being followed by Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
Regulating acid sale is a tough task, given that it is used in numerous trades and industry and is also cheap and used for sanitation purposes. Unless asked for a toilet cleaner with a particular brand name, shop owners generally give out acid, which are said to clean even stubborn stains. Perhaps banning its sale other than for commercial and industrial purposes can offer a way out, along with providing cheaper alternatives for sanitation.
Acid attacks are not only venomous and inhuman in nature, but also disfigure and traumatise their victims, besides increasing the burden of medical care due to burn injuries. A whole future can lie in tatters. The laws are there, but it is the societal changes that are needed to end the attack, and breaking down cultural norms can mean a lot of painstaking work. Other states should also take a leaf out of Chandigarh’s rule book.
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