The Hush Post: Acid-attack survivors get sympathy, but what they don’t get is money or even jobs to earn a livelihood. The biggest name of acid-attack survivors in India Laxmi, 30, a complete antithesis to her name, is back to where she was. After being promoted as a face of courage and poise, Laxmi has no job. Now she may even be without a home.
Look at her roll of honour. She is one of the winners of the US State Department’s International Women of Courage Award in 2014. It was presented to her by the then First Lady Michelle Obama. Laxmi also hosted a few episodes of a TV show. She was paid about Rs 38,000 after which the money stopped coming. She walked the ramp at the London fashion week but didn’t get a penny. Does walking a ramp fill your stomach or get the things you need for your survival?
Today, Laxmi has reached a point that she could face eviction from a rented accommodation. She lives in a two-room flat in east Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar. But she has been asked to vacate because she can’t afford the rent.
“People believe that I must be well-off since I received so many awards. I have walked the ramps, given talks but I have no money to meet even my basic needs,” she told The Hindustan Times. She has been without a job for a year. She has been separated from her live-in partner for the last three years and has a little daughter to fend for.
“I do get invites to walk the ramp for Delhi designers. But since there is no payment involved, I have stopped taking part in such shows. I have a child to take care of and I need a permanent source of livelihood,” says Aggarwal.
Her former live-in partner, Alok Dixit, the founder of the Stop Acid Attack campaign, had co-founded an NGO, Chhanv Foundation, with her. She was the director of the NGO for which she was paid an honorarium of Rs 10,000 a month. She quit the NGO on account of differences with Dixit and the money stopped coming.
Dixit admits he has not been able to provide any financial assistance to her or the child.
That’s not the end of her travails, she constantly has had to suffer because of her distorted face. Landlords often say they don’t want their kids to get scared of her face, she said.
“I am a trained beautician but my face becomes a hurdle at any beauty parlour,’ she said.
“I applied at a call centre where customers wouldn’t see my face, but they replied that to get a job, I need to have a face to begin with,” she rued.
“Laxmi received Rs 3 lakh in compensation but much of it went for her surgeries,” said Anurag Chauhan, founder of the NGO Humans for Humanity.
“In India, people are willing to give awards, not money,” he said, and rightly so.
In 2005, acid was thrown on Aggarwal by a stalker.