On February 22 this year, life changed for Shanu, a 38-year-old woman from Sakleshpura, Hassan, when she became a victim of acid attack. The reason - a B.Ed in Hindi, she wanted to come and work in Bangalore for a better salary but her husband was against it. In an effort to scare her, he threw acid on her which turned out to be fatal.
With the frequency of such a violent form of assault increasing by the day across the country, the Supreme Court ordered strict regulations on the sale of acids and made acid attacks a non-bailable offense and a payment of Rs 3 lakhs compensation to the victim. City Express did a reality check in Bangalore to see how these regulations were followed.
As students, we scored the streets of BVK Iyengar road, a huge destination for all industrial chemicals and laboratory chemical equipments. Stores which were previously hotspots for selling hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid and nitric acid like Paramount chemical store and Mehta & Sons claimed to have stopped selling acids.
The storekeepers at Mehta & sons claimed that they never had a licence to sell acids and when we enquired for a bathroom cleaning acid, he quaintly pointed at a blue colour liquid - Harpic. Storekeepers at Paramount sang the same tune saying that even if we provided the necessary identification, they will not provide the acid as they don't sell them. Paramount stores however sells caustic soda and according to them it is used by soap industries and does not cause much damage.
However another storekeeper in the by lanes of Laxman Rao road, which keeps only chemical solvents used to preserve materials in laboratories, said that Paramount stores does sell acid but due to the regulations imposed by the courts and police, it is extremely difficult to source from them as individuals.
Another storekeeper in the lane stated that they do not provide chemicals over the counter but if an ID proof and a purchase order stating the uses and quantity are given from the college on a letterhead, in a day or two, they can provide the acids.
Previously, all three acids were sold for Rs 50 for half a litre but now it costs Rs 200-300, a shopkeeper said. Regarding caustic bases, he said that they were available over the counter.
Apart from these shops, many shops feigned ignorance and said they don't sell acids and they don't have a licence and would not even give references about where one could find shops where acids are sold. Many, on hearing the very word, turned mum and looked doubtful.
A storekeeper at ARS store, which supplies surgical and scientific equipments said that they have all the three acids, but they need a purchase order from the college and an ID. Caustic bases like caustic soda and potash however were freely available. Sri Devi stores, another small retail store said that they do not sell acids.
Although many of these stores stated that they don't sell acids and neither do they keep them in their stores to sell over the counter; the unmistakable smell in their concentrated form are very prevalent in the surroundings.
According to many storekeepers, hardware shops on the outskirts of Bangalore are however still selling acids without any identification proof.