Two out of every five pellet-blinded victims in Kashmir are less than 20 years of age and school going students, a survey by a non-governmental organisation says.

The first survey on pellet victims, covering all 10 districts of Kashmir, has profiled 535 cases. It has been carried out by Help Foundation, a Kashmir based NGO, and funded by the UK-based Kashmir Development Foundation.

The exercise has detailed age, occupation, economic backgrounds of pellet survivors along with the medical interventions they have undergone for improving vision.

As per the survey 229 of the total 535 victims are aged below 20, comprising over 42 percent of the victims. Thus, out of every five pellet victims, two are teenagers. The data also reveals that 167 people out of the total victims are students, 73 of them yet to reach class 10.

Most of the young victims, as per the survey, come from poor families, with their parents and guardians having meager incomes, making it difficult for them to follow up the costly treatment or seek rehabilitative services. 

In case of 374 victims, constituting about 70 percent of the total injured, the family heads are labourers, as per the survey. In addition, in case of about 70 victims, the only earning member in the family is a small-time shopkeeper or farmer.

The survey details that 225 victims used to work as labourers, or were engaged in small time shops and other occupations before injury. After the injury, the survey says, they were unable to continue due to the nature of injury.

“Doctors have forbidden them (victims) from lifting loads or bending. They are not able to see well too,” the team of surveyors from the NGO, headed by Ashiq Ali, said. “Their families are in utter misery due to the additional medical expenditures and no income.”

Over 45 percent of victims have grave eye injuries, having already undergone multiple surgeries. Of the total victims, 213 have recurring haemorrhages, and visual ability is “almost nil”, the survey reveals.

Another 35 pellet victims have undergone lens transplants. The remaining victims are struggling to improve vision with surgeries and other interventions but have ambulatory vision.

Poor economic background and severity of injury, coupled with lack of financial and other support is posing immense hardships in the daily lives of the victims, the surveyors said.

“Each trip to hospital has cost the family thousands of rupees because no public transport was available and they were forced to hire taxis to Srinagar. Many are neck deep in debt,” said Nighat Shafi, who heads Help Foundation. 

She added the year that went by was also a year of no income for labor class. “Their families have suffered on many fronts. They had no incomes, and medical expenditures were too high,” she said.

Victims, as per the surveyors are struggling to get back to normal life. “They require support, psycho-social as well as financial. We are just trying to access how this help can reach them the best,” said Shafi.

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