Over a year since pellet shotguns used by government forces blinded over 1000 civilians in Kashmir, fully or partially, government has compensated just 17 victims. Medicos have expressed despair about the fact that hundreds of victims, mostly students with severe vision impairment, have been ignored.
As per hospital records, over 1050 people have been injured in eye(s) with pellet shotguns since 9 July 2016 when mass scale protests erupted in Kashmir. At least 74 of these had pellet injuries in both eyes as per hospital data. Over 20 had their eye(s) eviscerated (totally removed) due to the pellet injury. Most victims have injuries in areas vital for vision such as macula, retina and optic nerve, doctors have said.
Following outrage over the mass scale eye injuries and blindness, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in January 2017 had announced that pellet victims would be compensated with jobs. Later, a committee was constituted headed by divisional commissioner Kashmir to evaluate cases of the victims.
However, 10 months since the announcement, no more than 17 victims have been provided compensation. A source in the government said that the committee had finalized names of only 17 victims and recommended these for cash relief. No word on provision of jobs has followed CM's announcement.
Government has not decided on compensation to rest of the pellet victims, hundreds of whom are struggling to get back to life with severe vision loss. Divisional commissioner Baseer Ahmed Khan said that nothing had been decided about the compensation to other pellet victims. "No proposal for compensation to rest of the victims is under consideration for now," he said.
Officials in the health department said they had compiled details of the victims who had suffered 40-70 percent vision loss and forwarded it to government. However, Khan denied that details of the victims were being considered for compensation purpose. "We collect details even for the minor injuries. Collecting details does not mean we will compensate these people," he said.
Medicos expressed concern over the fact that hundreds of pellet victims with severe vision impairment and "legally blind" had been left to fend on their own by the apathy of the authorities. "What are the criteria they are using to decide a case of compensation? Hundreds of them (pellet victims) are not able to go to school, do their jobs and they don't even qualify for compensation?" a health official said.
As per a survey on 500 people with pellet injuries in eye(s) compiled by Help Foundation, a non-governmental organization, about 300 were students.
Doctors said that as per medico-legal definitions, all eye injuries were disabling in nature. "Pellet victims are legally blind," a senior ophthalmologist said. He defined legal blindness as 'field of vision less than 20 degrees and a visual acuity of less than 6/60'.
Many doctors who have or are treating pellet victims urged that government must compensate all people whose eyes had been hit by pellets.