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police lacks apathy, society lacks what???

MUMBAI: The recent acid attack on a 22 year old woman at a crowded railway station, by a man who had allegedly attacked her twice before, has raised questions over police apathy in dealing with cases of harassment as much as safety. “This is the third time that she has been attacked, earlier she was attacked on the face, with a small knife.

After the first attack we moved from Malwani to Nallasopara to feel safer,” Seema Thakur, mother of the victim said. On Wednesday Railway police arrested a 25 year old man, her former land lord for throwing acid on her face. The victim, presently at Singhvi hospital has been provided police protection, however her earlier attempts to book a complaint went in vain. “I don’t know why the police did not register a case when we approached them earlier…her doctors are confident that she will recover but the family will always be scared,” the petrified mother said.

“Incident such as an acid attack does not emerge suddenly; negative feelings repressed over a long time finally result into something so hurtful. So why does the police and society refuse to act when it can be stopped, before it ruins a woman’s identity?” asked Shirin Juwaley, who survived an acid attack by her husband in 1998. While Juwaley regards Mumbai as ‘safe for women’ she adds that ‘mindsets are very unsafe’, “We are socially conditioned to accept that men can eve tease or harass women and the only time we address the issue is when something shocking happens. The police also does not feel the need to address the issue unless a women is traumatised enough to make it to the headlines,” said Juwaley who currently runs an NGO, Palash, to help women in similar situations and helps victims of disfigurement.

Expressing shock over police inaction Soniya Gill, secretary Maharashtra All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) said, “Why did the police wait to act until the woman was attacked with acid, how could the earlier attacks with blades not be registered?…Police must be asked why it did not do anything when the girl approached them on two previous occasions?” While officials at Malwani police station refused to speak on the issue, the railway police very proudly claimed that adequate measures were in place to ensure safety of women passengers, “There are extra constables in each local train compartment from 8:30 pm till 6 am, helpline numbers are written everywhere so that in case of a problem there is a quick response,” said Ankush Shinde, DCP, Railway police, western railways. “In the recent case the victim was not in the train but at the platform- a very crowded area. Even then the police quickly rushed her to the hospital and later helped in the arrest by CCTV footage,” he added.

“I see thousands of women rushing to work and back everyday, if this were not a safe city how they could be so free? There might be few stray cases but we can not question the safety of women all together,” Pramodini Balaram Matre, homeguard at the Mumbai Central railway station said rejecting the notion that there is any safety concern for women in Mumbai. However the Mumbai police cut a sorry figure in providing data for cases of attacks on women, “There are very few cases of such attacks that are actually reported because in most cases the attacker is a known person,” spokes person of Mumbai Police said.

The victims however recall each detail of the treatment given by police, “I was burned and completely disfigured but when I asked the police to file a case against my husband and his brother, I was asked to forgive, forget and reconcile,” said Sneha Jawale. Ms Jawale was harassed for dowry and in 1997 she was doused with kerosene oil and burned. “How much security can you have, if you are attacked in your house by your husband and the police refuse to register a case what can security do then? she questioned. “It was not until our divorce proceedings that the incident was recorded, before that the police simply refused to acknowledge it.” Today Sneha Jawale is a successful astrologer and writes dialogues for Marathi films and TV serials.

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Acid attacker held

MUMBAI: Railway police, on Wednesday, arrested a 25 year old man for attacking a woman, his former tenant, by throwing acid on her face. The accused Nasir Shaikh alias Pintu, allegedly attacked the 22 year old outside Goregaon railway station on Tuesday evening when she was punching her railway ticket coupon, while speaking on the phone.

Pintu was nabbed near Borilvilli railway station and was produced before a local court on Wednesday morning, which remanded him to police custody till February 7. “The court sent him to police remand till February 7, we have booked him under sector 307(attempt to murder), Inspector L G Dombre of the Boriville police station said.

Inspector Dombre added that the victim was first attacked in November last year and again in December, “Both times she was attacked on her face with a small blade, we are yet to ascertain if the same person is responsible for all the attacks. Also it is not confirmed whether he executed the acid attack himself or hired someone.”

The woman, working at an IT company at Goregaon was on her back home when the attack happened, “The injuries are not life threatening, she has received 10-15 per cent burns on her face, neck and forearms,” the police added. The victim was admitted to a private hospital after the attacker threw acid on her and fled.

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Cancer Bathinda’s dubious distinction

The crowd waiting to board train no 339 from Bathinda Railway Junction shares more than the overnight journey to Bikaner (Rajasthan), its passengers are bound together by the misery of cancer and the hope of getting cured. “I see close to a hundred people boarding the train every night…What else can be done, there is no hospital for nearly 150 km and every street has patients,” says Vicky Kumar who runs a tea stall at the station. “It’s like a curse on the region, not a personal plight,” he added.

A family of five, from village Gehri Bhagi, 10 km from here, wait at the station to take their 17-year-old son to Bikaner. “We don’t know why he got cancer in the food pipe, he takes no tobacco, no alcohol. But there have been over 15 cases in the last year in our village,” his mother breaks down while speaking about her son’s illness.

Home to a million people, Bathinda boasts a thermal power plant, two coal power plants, a fertilizer plant, and a large oil refinery, and countless cancer patients. The latest data from the health department puts the number of patients in Malwa region at 120-125 per lakh against 71, which is the national average. The department states that there is a jump of 80 per cent in the number of cases from the region in 2010 compared to 2009.

“There have been over 90 deaths in the last 15 years in my village. There is a cancer patient in every house, every family; but no medical facility. Six years ago, they started making a cancer hospital, but that is a private hospital, they charge Rs. 500 just to enter the gate, the ticket to Bikaner is Rs. 34,” said Daljeet Singh (52) of village Jajjal, 30 km from here. The nearest medical facility is at Ludhiana (164 km) or Chandigarh (210 km), which has made Bikaner the medical centre for Malwa’s cancer patients. A super-specialty cancer and cardiac care hospital being set up here by the Max Healthcare Institute Limited under public-private-partnership (PPP) has failed to meet its deadline, April 2011. The Punjab government has given 4.8 acres of land of the local civil hospital to the Max Healthcare at an annual rent of Re. one for 50 years. However, details of treatment for poor cancer patients are not finalised yet. Only 50 beds had been kept for cancer patients in the proposed hospital, and Max Healthcare would give a part of its earning to the Punjab government to fund the treatment of poor cancer patients.

A 2007 epidemiological study, known as the PPCB-PGIMER Report, found that Bathinda surface waters are contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, chromium, selenium and mercury. The waste water generated from industry “is drained mostly partially or untreated in the local drains, which had led to the pollution of these drains.” Pesticides such as heptachlor, ethion and chlorpyrifos were also higher in samples of drinking water, vegetables and blood in the cotton belt of Punjab. The study also found DNA mutations in 65 per cent of the blood samples, taken from over 5,000 randomly selected people. Despite the high positive correlation between cancer cases and modern farming methods and industrialisation, government-funded institutions report indecisive conclusions. “The research does not prove that pesticides were the culprit…it is important to remember something about health studies in general: They are difficult to carry out…it would take many more years to demonstrate whether pesticides actually triggered the elevated cancer rates they found in some farming areas. Farmers have improved their standard of living, they have smoked more tobacco and changed to unhealthy diets. Or a combination of all those factors, including pesticides, might have driven cancer rates higher,” one study states.

“Officials will deny the link to industry and green revolution; but farmers are encouraged to use excessive pesticides instead of farming organically. Crops that are not conducive to the soil and water are being produced by farmers who wear no protective layer while spraying toxic chemicals. Villagers use empty containers of pesticides for storing of most of the food items, still we treat the rise in cases of cancer as a medical mystery,” asked Umendra Dutta of Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM). “Not just cancer, the mindless toxic farming and industrial pollution has led to high rates of spontaneous abortions, cancer, reproductive aliments, genetic deformities, anaemia, diarrhoea, vomiting, fluorosis and a host of skin ailments including rashes and boils,” he added.

“Some people came and took our blood samples, vegetables and milk samples; but no one told us what is wrong. Poor farmers have to go through treatment that they can barely afford, young couples are migrating so that their children are not affected,” said a 37-year-old woman, in Gayana, 15 km from here, whose son and daughter-in-law moved to Hoshiarpur after she lost her husband to throat cancer and her nephew to stomach cancer .

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