The reactions came on Tuesday after the Supreme Court, hearing a PIL on the issue, pulled up the central government for its laxity in checking the rising incidents of acid attacks across the country and gave it a week's time to come up with a policy to curb acid sale.
Since it is used as a low-cost cleaning agent, buying acid hardly ever raises suspicion. It is sold openly over the counter, in neighbourhood markets and hardware stores for as cheap as Rs 30 for 750 ml.
But activists stress on the importance of introducing licenses for acid vendors. "Only designated shops should be allowed to sell it for medical and industrial purposes. To buy acid, one should be required to clearly state one's identity and purpose," says activist Ranjana Kumari.
Alok Dixit, who runs a campaign called "Stop Acid Attacks" in the capital, says a closer look at the modus operandi of the attackers can help formulate an effective policy. "There have been several instances where attackers have been able to source acid from batteries. They should be sealed in a way to avoid easy access. If acid has to be sold over the counter, then it should be highly diluted before doing so," says Dixit.
Activist Albeena Shakil however, argues for a blanket ban on over-the-counter sale of acid, and for strict monitoring of industrial purchases.
"Non-industrial sale of acid should be banned altogether. And even the industrial use needs to be fully accounted for. It is a harmful chemical and there is no reason it should be lying around in people's homes," says Shakil.
Binalakshmi Nepram, founder of the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, echoes the sentiment. "Vendors should have a license to sell acid. That way the government can start monitoring its sale and purchase," says Nepram.
Activists also challenge the view that concentrated acid is the poor person's only cleaning aid. "The government has failed to curb acid sales primarily because it is serving the interests of big industrial manufacturers. The Supreme Court should intervene to restrict the sale of acid until the government passes a law to that effect," says Kavita Krishnan, secretary of All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA).
How to stop the menace
* Only licensed, authorized vendors should be allowed to sell acid
* Buyers must submit a document stating their identity and purpose
* Stop non-industrial sale altogether or sell only diluted acid for domestic use