BHUBANESWAR: It was in 2000 when the first case of acid attack in Odisha was reported from Kalahandi district. Three teenagers had thrown acid on Punam Singhal while she was going to college. The incident left deep scars on her face and body.
In the last 16 years, several cases of acid attacks have occurred in the State and majority of the victims are women - the latest being Panchami Digal (50) of Dimiriguda village under Phiringia police limits in Phulbani district and 19-year-old Mamuni Bisoyi from Gangapur village of Ganjam district. Mamuni sustained over 60 per cent burn injuries. Panchami’s husband Thomas poured acid on her on Monday night while she was sleeping suspecting extra-marital affair.
In the last three years, 20 acid attack cases have been reported in Odisha. According to National Crime Records Bureau’s report of 2015 released recently, eight cases of acid attack related violence were reported from Odisha and the State ranks seventh in reporting the highest number of acid attacks. There were two cases of acid attack attempts in 2015.
In 2013, two acid attack cases were registered by Odisha Police but in the following year the number rose five times to touch 10. In 90 per cent cases, acid was thrown on women.
In January this year, a man had thrown acid on seven members of his family in Bhubaneswar. These incidents point to the easy availability of both hard and diluted forms of acid in the market.
Even as the Supreme Court had in 2013 directed the Central and State Governments to regulate sale of acid after hearing the case of Laxmi (New Delhi) that was filed in 2006, there has been little compliance.
Subsequently, the State Government had notified the Odisha Poisons (Possession and Sale) Rules, 2014 that restricted sale of acid and other corrosive substances. Under this, 14 substances are notified as poison and can only be sold to licence holders and not grocery shops.
However, hard acids are diluted with water and sold openly as toilet cleaners at grocery shops in every district. Similar acidic solutions are used by jewellers to clean ornaments. These diluted solutions are corrosive enough to leave deep scars on human body.
Sources in police said while a tab is being maintained on over-the-counter sale of acid, sale of diluted acid cannot be entirely checked.
The Crime Branch (Odisha Police) had released a circular last year stating that OICs and IICs of all police stations must inspect the premises of licence holders of acid every month and check the condition in which acids are kept for sale, maintenance of sale registers besides compliance of the Odisha Poisons (Possession and Sale) Rules. “However, the directive is not being followed in true spirit as a result of which acid is still making its way to the open market, albeit in diluted form,” said Chairperson of State Commission for Women, Lopamudra Buxipatra.