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Pragya Singh

Pragya Singh

Just 12 days after her wedding in April 2006, young and full of life, Pragya Singh was on her way to Delhi by train to attend a campus placement interview. Middle of the night, a scorned suitor sneaked in and poured acid on her while she was sleeping. The criminal was caught and arrested but after just 4 and half years, his well-off family got him out on bail. As for Pragya, the life she knew and loved was over but unlike many such acid attack survivors, her family and husband supported her to get back on her feet. Today, Pragya Singh herself is the support of many; she is the founder of Atijeevan Foundation- an organization that helps rehabilitate survivors of acid attacks.

Talking about her will to change people’s lives for the better, she says, “I had no idea what would come my way. The acid attack may just seem like a word to many, but this crime is so brutal in nature, it does not just disfigure the victim, it tears apart her soul. I started off with the determination to help these women live a life of their own and to bring the smile back on their faces by giving them a source of sustainable income. I knew it would be a difficult road ahead, but the response has been overwhelming by my team and the survivors. Atijeevanhas already made a mark by accumulating donations from various sources for survivors.”

Atijeevan works on various levels to help the survivors. Right from medical help, psychological counseling, legal counseling to creating viable employment options for them- the organization is a huge strength to the traumatized women. It also organizes various workshops and programs on making people aware of basic medical treatment, on ways for women to protect themselves and yes, on standing up against and ending ‘acid violence’.

Ms Singh adds, “We believe in gifting these women a gift that will last their lifetime.  We strongly believe that mere charity and money giving is only the first step towards a solution for this issue, as the acid attack crime leads to extreme social alienation of the victim. Most of these victimized women are deemed unfit for marriage or employment due to the permanent disfigurement of their faces. We allow such victims the opportunity to not only earn their own livelihoods, but also to find and embrace their own sense of dignity and self-worth.”

The unimaginable pain that the innocent survivors go through for the rest of their lives cannot be fathomed by others. Besides family, it is doctors who can help them deal with the aftermath of the cruel attack. In fact, Ms Singh was prompted to start Atijeevan when she saw how improper and negligent treatment can lead to harmful long lasting effects on the acid burn patients. Today, doctors form an integral part of the organization. It is in touch with renowned Plastic Surgeons and Burn Specialists from private hospitals across India, including Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Varanasi, Lucknow etc.

However Ms Singh has had bitter experiences too with medics, “The doctors in government hospitals are very reluctant to give extra effort to treat their patient. With an assured salary,they are not really bothered to make a good rapport with the patients.

I would like to highlight that the major burn patients who get admitted in government hospitals are not guided and assisted properly. In general, the attitude of the doctors, nurses and staff there is awful. Of course there are exceptions!”

Discounts in medicines and treatments would go a long way to give proper medical care to the survivors and can save many lives. The passion in Ms Singhis evident as she strongly voices,“Doctors are MESSIAHS! There would be so much healing with their guidance. There are many experienced doctors in the country who are willing to help the survivors but they do not have ample time or they are not approached by patients. We want to act like a bridge and based on the location and situation of the patients, we want to lead them to best possible doctor. In many cases, a simple advice by an experienced doctor has proven very valuable for us.”

Pragya Singh and her team at Atijeevan Foundation are determined in continuing on their mission…a mission that would be more empowered with the helping hands of the medical community. “It is our firm belief that one day we will bring a smile on the faces of all victims and there will not be any further acid attacks.” Amen!

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