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The Sparkling Warrior

PragyaAcid Attack Survivor

Embark on a journey with Pragya in a film that delves into the profound impact of acid attacks. Pragya, a survivor herself and an advocate now, narrates her personal story on navigating reconstructive surgery, emotional battles, and societal challenges. Witness her transformative quest for knowledge, leading to the birth of Atijeevan Foundation in 2013. Amidst her love for binge-watching, Pragya emerges triumphant, leading a thriving life. With humor and heart, Pragya advocates skin donation, tackles challenges and envisions a future free from acid attacks.

Transcript

Acid attack is a kind of crime that happens mostly to women, uh, you know, 80 % of them are women, young girls and women, uh, mostly it happens by the perpetrators who wants to destroy, you know, in an act of vengeance, uh,  threws, throws acid on uh, you know, the girl or the women uh, uh, because , uh, she would have, rejected uh, you know, his love advances, or rejected his proposal for marriage. 

Impact is mostly over the face and the front part of the body, you know, chest and neck and hands, and uh, uh it gets burnt, uh, and it is a 4 degree burnt, which is really really deep, and if first aid is not provided within the first few hours, uh, it can deeply burn or in some cases uh, take life of the patient as well. 

So, before 2016 it was not included in RPWD Act, why, because nobody had fought for it earlier, In 2006 Advocate Aparna Bhat had filed a PIL in Supreme Court saying that acid sale should be banned in the retail market. So, in 2013, uh, a Supreme Court judgement came, uh, which said that you know, acid sale should be regulated, Supreme Court said to all the central and all the state governments to regulate the sale of acid, at the same time compensate acid attack survivors for their initial treatment. Acid attack survivors was added in the RPWD Act.  

[Background music as Pragya waters plants, arranges flowers, and plays with her dog]

Sit

Jump! Up, up, up!

Hi! I am Pragya. 

I was acid attacked twelve days after my wedding, uh, when I was travelling in train, uh, from my hometown Varanasi to uh, New Delhi.

Uh, I was deep asleep.

Uh, it was midnight at 2.00 a.m.

A gentleman, uh, who wanted to marry me threw acid on me because I rejected his proposal.

You know, most of the acid attack perpetrators come out on bail and live a life freely after that

uh, though, uh, although the patient, the survivor will have to struggle for the rest of her life.

You know, for the initial first few years, she has to undergo, he or she has to undergo multiple reconstructive surgeries, uh, also fight a legal battle which takes, drains away the, you know, money and energy of any, any middle-class family or, you know, underprivileged family.

Initially, for three and a half months, I was in a government hospital.

Uh, for the first seventeen days, I was on a ventilator. 

You know, doctors were not sure whether they could save me or not, uh, but yeah, I survived, and you know, later, they shifted me to the burns ward, uh, where I stayed for rest, three months.

My, in that government hospital, uh, in Delhi, I underwent two reconstructive surgery, grafting surgeries because my wounds were not healing, in, even after three months.

So they had to do grafting surgeries for my hands, back, and face where the wounds were not healing. 

I also lost uh, eyesight, uh, in one of my eye, uh, because of the impact of acid.

Uh, Mine was an arranged marriage.

Uh, I was not, like, uh, I didn’t know my husband before, much before my wedding.

So you know, uh, I also had this thing whether my marriage will survive or not,

but yeah, today, here I am with my husband and, you know, my family.

I have two daughters, who are 12 and 14 years old, uh, today.

My spare time, I do binge-watching. [laughs] I … I … I, yeah, I … I and I watch with my husband or alone. 

I … I … I, my, like, you know, late nights because daytime I don’t have time at all.

When I, uh, uh, started asking the doctors how to go ahead with the rest of … my surgeries, rest of my treatment, uh, I didn’t get the right answers.

Uh, when I used to google on internet, uh, how to take care of the burns of the acid attack, how does it happen, why does it happen, 

there was no information available on the internet in 2006.

Uh, I really, I … I was going through an identity crisis.

I was going through an emotional trauma.

I was not sure how my life would be, uh, next, you know, what I am going to do, uh, next.

Uh, I wanted some sort of support.

I wanted to talk to people who had gone through a similar situation like me.

I wanted to talk to people and doctors who had seen people like me and, you know, guide me, or help me with my, uh, emotio … emotions, you know, 

because it were, like it was blasting like I … I didn’t know what to do.

I didn’t know what to … how to take care.

My family was very, very supportive, but still I lacked that support from inside, you know.

 So, um, I also saw a lot of patients who were clueless about their treatment.

 I, on the other hand, had some information because I was educated.

 I googled. I, uh, you know, spoke to a lot of doctors. I met a lot of them, travelled.

My family was that supportive.

They travelled with me to meet different kinds of, you know, different doctors for different kind of surgeries.

So, I had some information.

On the other hand, I saw patients who didn’t have information, nothing at all.

Even, they were not even aware, uh, you know, they were going inside the OT in a government O … hospital OT.

They were not even aware of what the doctor was going to do with their body.

I saw patients struggling for one surgery, running between a government hospital and home for three, four, five, six months for one surgery.

I saw the delay because of all this, and I could see the gap that, you know, there is no one to help them, to guide them, 

to beco … be the bridge between the doctor and the patient, uh, so that the communication is clear. 

Doctor … doctors were aware of how to guide them, but they didn’t have the time.

So, who is going to do all this, and that’s when I decided that, you know, at least if God has put me into this stern test, 

let me come out and be that helping hand for those patients, uh, you know, who don’t have any kind of support or any kind of information with them.

So, you know, I started being that support, you know, informally just guiding them, talking to them, and 

that’s how, you know, in 2013, I started Atijeevan because, you know, with only one aim at that time, that, you know, 

let me start a … a … a … a non-profit to provide them free of cost re-con … re-constructive surgeries in private hospitals.

You know, once we started, uh, there were a lot of questions, you know, what ha … what will happen after that, you know, 

once they go through all these surgeries, their surgeries are completed; what next?

So, they are not, you know, accepted in the workspace; they are not given any kind of opportunity. 

So, uh, you know, I started a small social enterprise where, you know, I … I trained them in sewing, stitching, and making handicraft products like paper bags, earrings, you know, jewelleries and all.

 So, that’s how this enterprise started.

Skin bank is something, uh, which is a boon to burn and acid attack patients.

It is where you pledge to donate your, uh, skin just like your other organs, uh, which is harvested from your thigh and lower back after the death of the, uh, of the person, you know, within the first six hours.

Um, you can call the skin bank people, uh, immediately after the death, and they will come and harvest the skin from the thigh and lower back with a machine called Dermatome, which is very similar to a, like potato peel, peeler, and it, the whole process will take hardly 45 minutes of time.

They’ll nicely bandage that, you know, the harvested area.

There is no bleeding; there is no deformity, nothing, and one single donor can save the life of up to three burn patients.

Right now, there are only 17 skin banks in our country, uh, uh, hardly four or five government skin banks, 

and the rest of them are private skin banks which is run in private hospitals.

Uh, most of them are supported by Rotary, and uh, uh, you know, the pioneer of starting a skin bank in India was Dr. Sunil Keswani. 

As an acid attack survivor, you keep on facing challenges on a day-to-day basis.

Like, recently, when I wanted to start, uh, open a new bank account, my, uh, online KYC was, was rejected for a simple reason that I couldn’t blink one of my eye.

And then, when I started researching, I got to know that most of the survivors, uh, of acid attack faced the similar kind of challenges, and

hence, I started this petition which asks all the banks and RBI to amend, uh, this regulation and 

include four to five more parameters of liveliness rather than having eye-blinking as the only parameter.

Acid attack is one of the 21, di, uh, uh, disability recognized, by the government of India.

But this is one disability which can be avoided, which can, which is deliberately done by another human being.

 Why it is happening, uh, and how it is happening,

because of the easy availability of acid around the retail market. 

Um, I believe this acid attack can be stopped.

This kind of, you know, cri … crime can be stopped by, uh, not having acid sale in the retail market.

This disability can be avoided, uh, in future by training our kids to respect the decisions of other gender, 

to respect, uh, uh, the, uh, you know, uh, rejection, to accept the rejection, uh, and you know, uh, the dignity of other gender.

Uh, I think, if our, if our children are raised in, uh, with that thought, this kind of crime can be avoided in future.  

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