Saturday, May 30, 2015

Why are the people buying Acid?

Acid sale is a reality in every nook and corner of the country, even though there is a ruling by Supreme Court of India to regulate the sale of acids. Despite this, there is no enforcement of law and most of the departmental stores sell acid in plastic bottles.

“People buy acid for cleaning toilets, and difficult stains on the floor. It is cheaper than Harpic and other toilet cleaners, so it is sold more.” a departmental store owner in Delhi’s Sultanpur area shared. When asked that there is a ruling that non-industrial acid sale should not take place, he told, “I am not aware of that. I do not think there is any kind of ban on acid sale, else why would I be getting it so easily? No police officials have ever warned him regarding this.

I later explained to him the rising acid attacks in the country, and that his role is crucial in this matter. He understood the seriousness of the matter and asked me not to put his name in the article I am writing. He said that he will try to know more about this and if required will stop selling acid.

The person I was interacting with was one of the numerous sellers of acids in India’s capital. Few news channels have run sting operations on the sellers of acids. Many sellers are aware of the ban on the acid, but still continue to sell it as there is a good demand for the product. They state that they are selling diluted acid. But even the diluted acid is enough to burn somebody’s flesh.

The larger question remains- Why are people buying Acid? I interacted with few people to understand the reasons.

“I buy acid as it is better and cheaper than branded toilet cleaners. It cleans my toilet instantly.” informs Harish (name changed on request), who works with an IT firm. Most of the people have common reason of cleaning toilet. And sadly, many people are not even aware of the ban on the product. “Is it really banned? I am sure there is a ban on sale of concentrated acid, but we can buy diluted acid. It is even available in Chemistry labs!” shared Smita, a marketing executive in a Multinational firm.

The acid available in chemistry labs are, ideally well measured. The diluteness is stated on the bottle. But the acid available in a few departmental stores are manufactured by local workers, and doesn’t even have proper labelling. In many cases they are sold in used mineral water bottles- making it difficult to know who manufactured it.

As I interact with more and more people, I realise that there is less sensitisation around the effects of acid on our body and society at large. The supply of product is directly related to the demand. Acid is considered a household product in India. The government needs to take proper steps to sensitise the people about the effects and danger a bottle of acid carries with itself. The responsible officials must ensure that the Supreme Court ruling is strictly followed by the departmental store owners.

This article was first published on LokMarg on May 7, 2015

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