Patna: Amid the lockdown imposed to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, Lakhan Mandal and Shankar Tanti, both victims of the infamous Bhagalpur acid blinding incident, were not provided a pension of Rs 750 per month—their only source of livelihood —by the authorities.
Mandal and Tanti are two of of the 18 surviving victims, including Sahdev Das, Shailesh Tanti, Md Wasim, Pawan Kumar Singh, Umesh Yadav, Patel Shah, Bhola Choudhary, Mantu Hari, Chamak Lal Yadav, Sallo Beldar, Kamal Tanti, Suresh Shah, Saligram Shah, and Raman Bind, of the police brutality that took place nearly four decades ago in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district.
They have not received their pension since November 2019.
After being neglected and ignored by the authorities repeatedly, these helpless old people have decided to approach the Supreme Court to get their pension.
“Even during a pandemic, we have not received our pension, as it was stopped by the concerned authorities last November. It is really painful that the government failed to consider our plea to provide the pension on humanitarian grounds,” Mandal said.
He added that they are helpless and blind; they rely on others’ help for movement. “We curse ourselves for this life after being blinded by police.”
Tanti, another victim of the acid incident, said, “We know that the little amount of this pension is not adequate for survival, but whatever amount this is, it is our own money. We have been facing so many problems during the lockdown.”
Similarly, Das and Yadav said, “The pension amount was sufficient enough so that we do not beg our children for khaini (smokeless tobacco), tea and other such necessities.”
The victims’ advocate, Ram Kumar Mishra, told NewsClick, “I will file a petition in the apex court on behalf of victims of the Bhagalpur acid blinding incident. I plan to ask not only to provide them the pension, but to increase the pension amount by tenfold to Rs 7500 per month.”
According to Mishra, he has informed the Bhagalpur district administration and requested them to ask the concerned officials and banks to provide the pension to the victims. “They are not getting it as the banks have stopped it due to the lack of some documents,” he added.
He said that till October 2019, the surviving victims were getting the pension as per the apex court order in lieu of interest from the fixed deposit of Rs 30,000 in each victim's name in the State Bank of India.
He had filed a PIL in 1980 in the apex court, following which the court had ordered to pay the pension to the victims.
Mishra said that it is very difficult for victims to arrange the certificates and submit those to the banks every year. “As all of them are visually challenged, the district administration should help them.”
He said that initially, their pension amount was merely Rs 500, which was later increased to Rs 750. But the pension amount has remained the same for the last three and a half decades. “No one cares for them and they have been left to fight for their survival. Even the meagre pension amount has now been stopped,” he said.
The Bhagalpur blindings case is known to be the first case in which the Supreme Court had ordered compensation for violation of human rights. However, the victims have been forgotten by the successive governments at the Centre as well as in the state.