Pragmatic & purposeful
Looking past one’s own weaknesses and disabilities and doing something for others is what makes life worth living. Pragya Singh follows that as her life’s philosophy. Rather than focusing on her own pain and sadness, this Bengaluru-based acid attack victim chose to help other acid and burn attack victims through Atijeevan Foundation, which she founded. The foundation not only helps victims to get the right treatment and counselling, it also helps them move past their anguish and pain.
While undergoing treatment for her own scars, Pragya, who is originally from Dhanbad, saw and met a lot of acid attack victims who had undergone over 25 surgeries with no considerable results. “Compared to them, I had just eight surgeries that brought about a lot of changes as every surgery was planned and discussed with the doctors. These girls had no knowledge about the doctors, types of surgeries needed and no monetary funds. Having gone through the same pain, I couldn’t watch them go down the wrong path,” says the brave woman.
She started Atijeevan Foundation in 2013 to support victims by sending them to the right doctors and counselling them. Pragya too went through something similar when she was attacked 12 days after she got married. This entire incident destroyed her life and confidence. “It destroyed relationships around me, my career — I had a MBA in fashion management but I couldn’t get a job. I lost my identity, courage, and the ability to talk to people. I had to undergo surgeries every month or alternate month. I was able to move past this phase only because of my husband and parents,” she shares. This foundation has helped over 200 acid attacks and burn survivors. On what the foundation does she adds, “The minute we get information about patients who need help, we help them in getting surgery and treatment done. They are also counselled, both patients and their families. They are re-introduced into the society by giving them livelihood skills like handicrafts, vocational training, skill training or even complete education.” Pragya shares that it’s quite hard for them get placed in the corporate sector. She shares, “Thankfully in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that acid attacks also come under the Disability Act. Corporates have started hiring but the incidence is still very less. The pay scale is not great as well. I feel that the condition still needs to be improved. The victims should be seen as individuals rather than disabled people and paid as per capability,” she says.
Apart from acid attack victims, the foundation helps burn victims as well. A mother of two girls, Pragya explains that the only difference between these two is that acid burns affect the vital organs as well. “A chance encounter with a burn victim in Karnataka Women’s Commission is when the foundation started caring for burn victims as well. The burn survivor questioned why I could not support her as well, and thus we began helping them too,” she shares. Pragya still has a couple of surgeries left but she realises that she will never look normal. Therefore she now looks beyond that and ensures she is well internally. On the plans for the future Pragya adds, “This month, one of our girls is getting married.
This is the fifth wedding at the foundation. This is my aim for the future, to have these girls that I have helped to start families of their own.” Pragya is also fighting against acid being sold in a diluted form. She adds, “In major cities, it is being sold like that. The patients are mostly from rural area. Some of our field workers are former acid attack victims too. Therefore we have started from the place where they were attacked, trying to sensitise people toward this crime and the sale of acids.” Such crimes should be considered as non-bailable offenses or be given capital punishment, Pragya concludes.