Hindustan Times (Lucknow)

Caught in red tape, free treatment just a promise for acid attack survivors

- Gaurav Saigal gaurav.saigal@hindustant­imes.com

Awaiting her 10th surgery at King George’s Medical University (KGMU), Deepmala isn’t sure if she would be able to come here again for the next stage of treatment.

Having lost her entire face, including vision, in a barbaric acid attack by her husband here in February last, she has since undergone nine operations. In the bargain, her family had to sell off two bighas of land to foot the bills for surgeries. A bright young woman is facing this trauma in a state where the government had few months back announced compensati­on of Rs 3 lakh to acid attack survivors and free treatment in select hospitals.

“I am yet to get a penny,” says the Gonda resident.

“During one of my visits to KGMU, I had heard on radio that the government is giving Rs 3-lakh as assistance to acid attack survivors. My father did approach the district authoritie­s who said there weren’t any such provisions,” said Deepmala. “Doctors here have been very cooperativ­e and are managing things for me but I am not sure how medicines will come next month,” she says while ruing the fact that her father had turned into a landless labourer from a welloff farmer.

Her monthly expense on medicines needed for healing up of eyes alone is around Rs 20,000. “For the treatment of burnt skin, I need another Rs 2,500 every month,” she says while expressing her helplessne­ss. “Without medicines wounds won’t heal but could turn worse,” she says. The government in July had announced that acid attack survivors will get free treatment (both surgical and psychologi­cal).

Lucknow’s SGPGI, King George’s Medical University, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences and Saifai’s Rural Institute of Medical Sciences were made nodal centres for free treatment. The government order was issued but the absence of a clear guideline on management of finance for facility is acting as a big hurdle in the implementa­tion.

“The final finance availabili­ty at hospital level for treatment of such victims is still awaited,” confirmed Prof Rajiv Agrawal, HoD, plastic surgery department, SGPGI. He is also the nodal officer for acid burn victims’ assistance programme. “We are providing support to such victims at our level under the BPL category or other schemes but there is no guideline from the government on how and from where the funds are to be managed,” said Prof Vijay Kumar, who is treating Deepmala.

“Financial help for the acid attack victims is very important as repeated surgeries need money,” said Usha Kushwaha, founder, Red Brigade, the organisati­on engaged in helping victims morally.

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