Illegal acid sale spikes attacks on city women
In 2013, the Supreme Court banned over-thecounter sale of acid. Only authorised outlets can sell the volatile liquid provided buyers produce proper identity proof and transaction details are sent to the police within three days, the judges had said in the landmark order aimed at curbing the rising cases of acid attacks on women.
Six years on, thousands of acid bottles are being sold in complete violation of the court guidelines every day by provision stores across Delhi-NCR, a Mail Today reality check has revealed.
No wonder, cases of acid attacks on women continue to be reported in the region. There are two kinds of acids that attackers mainly use: sulphuric meant for industries and hydrochloric produced for cleaning purposes in a diluted form. But both can be bought easily.
Domestic helps give an idea about the scale at which acid is being sold every day. "Every day my employer cribs about not cleaning the toilet seat properly. I used toilet cleaners of popular brands but they don't give good results. One day, I used acid. She was very happy. Now, one bottle that costs Rs 60 lasts two months," said Pushpa (53), a domestic help who works in South Delhi neighbourhoods.
At least five plumbing tool shops in Noida's Bhangel were ready to sell acid to this reporter. Raju who works in Noida Sector-100 said that he buys acid for cleaning at his employer's house. "I purchase acid bottles from a plumber's shop in Bhangel," he said.
At various shops near West Delhi's Tagore Garden, acid is sold openly for Rs 40 a bottle. In Faridabad's Sarai Market, one can easily get a five-litre jar of hydrochloric acid for Rs 200.
A farmhouse owner in South Delhi's Fatehpur Beri gave a bizarre reason for buying acid. "As you can see, we have a big lawn. Insects are a problem. We spray acid in the drains to get rid of them," said the owner who runs a boutique in Malviya Nagar.
'EAST DELHI A HUB'
Shaheen Malik, who faced an acid attack and is now an activist with Human Rights Law Network, is helping survivors. The Director of Campaign against Acid Attack said, "A survey by our nine teams in the last three days has shown shocking results. From each of the 15 Delhi districts, they managed to buy two-three acid bottles."
The areas include Sadar Bazar, Chanakyapuri, Govindpuri, Bhogal, Patel Nagar, Narela, Alipur, Adarsh Nagar, Munirka, Shahdara, Seemapuri, Chirag Delhi, East of Kailash and Malviya Nagar. "East Delhi fared the worst.
Acid was being sold in every corner. We managed to buy nine bottles from East Delhi," she said. "We found a shopkeeper who was ready to give 13 litres of acid only after seeing an Aadhaar card," said one of the surveyors.
Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit wrote to L-G Anil Baijal this week, expressing her concern over acid attacks. "In the past few days, Delhi has witnessed many horrible crimes, including acid attacks, with the police standing as mute spectators," Dikshit wrote.
In May, the National Commission for Women (NCW) asked Uttar Pradesh DGP O P Singh to enforce a ban on the sale of acid while noting that it is "disturbed" by the rise in acid attacks. It was after a 22-year-old woman was attacked with acid on May 9.
NCW also sought a detailed action taken report. In March, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) issued a notice to the Divisional Commissioner (Revenue) of the Delhi government, urging a ban on the sale of acid.
"Unregulated acid sale is a major cause for continued acid attacks against women. Please provide an action taken report," read the letter.
DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal said, "Despite SC orders, acid continues to be sold in Delhi. This is unacceptable."
Social activist Alok Dixit claimed that a weak law is one of the reasons why illegal acid sale continues. "The salepurchase is not happening in open, but acid is available in most of provision stores or those selling plumbing and industrial materials.
These shops have a nexus with suppliers who illegally manufacture acids," he said. "Easy availability of acid is the primary reason for our failure to prevent such attacks," said a member of Atijeevan Foundation that works for acid attack survivors.
Nupur Prasad, Deputy Commissioner of Police (North), said cops keep a close watch on the sale and purchase of acid in markets.
"If we get any tip-off about acid being sold, we conduct raids and take appropriate action," she said. Madhur Verma, DCP (New Delhi) and Delhi Police spokesperson, said that special instructions have been given to the beat staff to be extra vigilant and act swiftly if any shopkeeper is found selling acid.
"In the recent past, no licence has been issued to allow sale of acid. No shopkeeper has come forward to seek a licence or renew an existing one," a senior Delhi Police official said. The Police in Gurugram, Faridabad, Noida and Ghaziabad also claimed that efforts were being made to check illegal sale of acid.
WHAT MAIL TODAY FOUND
At least five plumbing tool shops in Noida's Bhangel were ready to sell acid.
At various shops near West Delhi's Tagore Garden, acid is sold openly for Rs 40 a bottle.
In Faridabad's Sarai Market, one can easily get a five-litre jar of hydrochloric acid for Rs 200.
WHAT SURVEY REVEALED
Human Rights Law Network found acid is being sold illegally in many Delhi areas. The areas include Sadar Bazar, Chanakyapuri, Govindpuri, Bhogal, Patel Nagar, Narela, Alipur, Adarsh Nagar, Munirka, Shahdara, Seemapuri, Chirag Delhi, East of Kailash and Malviya Nagar.