Apart from regulating the sale of acid, the perpetrators of acid attacks should be meted out strict punishment as a deterrent
When the entire nation was celebrating 110th International Women’s Day on March 8, a 51-year-old woman, Bedamati Devi Gupta, a resident of Maharajgunj Bazaar in Kapilvastu, was attacked with acid by her neighbour, Hari Narayan Barai, following a heated spat between the two over a broken cricket bat their children were playing with Friday evening. She has sustained severe burns on her face and chest after Barai threw acid on her. She is now undergoing treatment at Universal College of Medical Sciences, Bhairahawa, where doctors said she is in critical condition. Preliminary investigation suggests that Barai, who is a battery mechanic, got the acid from his shop and threw it over her face in revenge, which will render her physically disfigured and mentally traumatised throughout her life. Another 15-year-old Mushan Khatun of Birgunj was also severely injured in an acid attack by her male acquaintance, Samsad Miya, 16, after she refused his amorous advances in September last year.
In yet another bizarre incident of acid attack, Ramraja Thapa, 27, sustained burn injuries after his wife, Pramila Thapa, 29, a mother of a three-month-old baby boy, poured acid on his body while he was asleep in a room at Purano Guheshwori two days ago. As Pramila has kept mum on the incident, the police are trying to establish the motive behind the incident. However, the police came to know from their close relatives and neighbours that they have had a troubled relationship for long. Ramraja is a micro-bus driver plying his vehicle on the Kathmandu-Dharan route. He must have stored the concentrated acid to recharge the batteries of his vehicle. Police suspect Pramila must have poured the same acid on his body parts.
These are some representative incidents that tell how people – both men and women – turn inhumane when it comes to settling personal scores. An acid attack is a heinous crime that renders a victim shocked throughout life. In most cases, especially when it involves girls and women, the perpetrators often target their face, with the aim of disfiguring them so that they are forced to live a secluded and traumatic life. The perpetrators have been able to buy or find concentrated acid, which is readily available in the market at a cheap price, as the most effective weapon to take revenge against their adversaries. Considering the plight faced by the acid-attack victims, the Supreme Court had ordered the government three years ago to regulate the store, sale and distribution of acid used for industrial and household purposes, such as cleaning toilets. But the government has done little to regulate them. The acid should be sold by an authorised dealer to the buyer only when the latter produces proof of identity and, that too, in limited quantity. Apart from regulating the acid sale, the perpetrators of acid attacks should be meted out strict punishment as a deterrent. As per the Criminal Code 2017, a perpetrator can be jailed for five to eight years and fined up to Rs 500,000 if the victim’s face is injured in an acid attack. Looking at the growing incidents of acid attacks, the quantum of punishment is very little compared to the trauma a victim has to face for the rest of the life.
Ayurveda for health
A bill to set up an Ayurveda university has been registered at the National Assembly, aimed at producing the needed human resource in the field through study and research. The Yogmaya Ayurveda University, to be set up in the Arun Valley in east Nepal, will be allowed to operate schools on Ayurveda, nursing, medicinal plants, yoga education and natural medicines. It may also set up teaching hospitals that meet the standards set by Nepal Ayurvedic Medical Council. The ancient healthcare tradition of Ayurveda has been practised in Nepal for ages, but due to lack of human resource, study and research, it is allopathy that people resort to when they fall ill.
In recent times, there has been growing attraction of the people towards Ayurvedic medicine, which has less side effects on human health in comparison to allopathic medicine. Yoga, as an interrelated branch, is widely practised not only in Nepal but also in the West to maintain both physical and mental health. Nepal, with its vast wealth of rare medicinal herbs, is the right place to develop Ayurveda and natural medicines. An advanced Ayurveda should provide an alternative treatment system, especially for diseases that allopathy has failed to find a cure.
A version of this article appears in print on March 12, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.