Patel Shah, 60 The Bhagalpur resident was blinded in October 1980 allegedly by the police. Image Courtesy: The New Indian Express
Pawan Kumar Singh, Umesh Yadav, Patel Shah and Bhola Choudhary are the victims of the infamous Bhagalpur acid blinding incident. However, all four have not received the pension of Rs 750 per month since November 2019. Singh, Yadav, Shah and Choudhary are 4 of the 18 surviving victims of the brutal police blindings incident which took place nearly four decades ago in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district. Till date 14 of total 32 victims have died.
“We have not received pension from banks for the last four months as our pension has been stopped by the concerned authorities. We are helpless blind people, we cannot move from one place to another. The government and particularly the district administration should intervene to ensure that we get pension,” Umesh Yadav told NewsClick from Bhagalpur on Friday.
Patel Shah, another victim of the acid incident, said, “It is very sad that our pension has been stopped. The pension amount may be small but it helps us to survive. We are not dependent on others for consuming khaini (smokeless tobacco), tea and other such necessities.”
In 1979 and 1980, in a series of incidents, 32 suspected criminals were blinded by the Bihar Police, who had poured acid into their eyes in Bhagalpur. After this shocking incident hit national and international headlines, the then Congress-led government in Bihar had ordered criminal cases against the 14 police personnel accused of perpetrating the acts and suspended 15 others including city DSP B. K. Sharma.
Also read: Sitamarhi Custodial Deaths of Muslim Youth: 8 Bihar Policemen Still Absconding
The victims’ advocate, Ram Kumar Mishra, said that he has informed the Bhagalpur District Magistrate Parnav Kumar on their behalf and requested them to ask the concerned officials and banks to provide them with the pension. “They are not getting pension as banks have stopped it due to lack of some documents,” he added.
“However, there has been no information from the DM’s side.I had also informed him on Whatsapp to draw his attention,” he said.
Mishra said that till October 2019, the surviving victims were getting 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 a pension to the victims.
Mishra told NewsClick that it is very difficult for victims to arrange life certificate and submit to the banks every year. “As all of them are visually challenged, the district administration should help them. They are suffering for no fault.”
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 in the last three and 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.
Mishra said that he will approach the apex court soon to increase their pension amount and demanding other benefits for them. Talking about it, he said, “It is a fact that despite being a social welfare state, the Indian government does not provide social security unless the judiciary intervenes. Pension is their main source of income, that should be enhanced now.”
The Bhagalpur blindings case had made history by becoming the first case in which the Supreme Court had ordered compensation for violation of human rights. However, the victims have been forgotten and left in lurch by successive governments at the Centre as well as in the state as they await justice even after 40 years.
Also read: High Numbers of Custodial Deaths: Police Butchering Basic Human Rights