Friday, February 19, 2016

Street children falling victims to drug menace

                         Lakshmi Singh

 A study suggests 27 per cent of call centre workers in the country use drugs. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh today have the highest number of school children using drugs.

Drug menace among children belonging to the upper class is not a new phenomenon. Earlier, Goa was a hub of drugs. Even in some high-end parties in major metros, drugs keep guests on a high. Use of cocaine and mind-altering amphetamines has become very common.

Technology has also helped spread and access to drugs. You can order it via internet and get it home-delivered. India is now a hub of drugs sold through illegal internet pharmacies and courier companies.

A study suggests 27 per cent of call centre workers in the country use drugs. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh today have the highest number of school children using drugs. About 70 per cent of the youth in Punjab are addicts.
What is alarming is tobacco, cannabis, inhalants, sedatives, heroin and opium are some of the common items which are consumed among children on streets, according to a study by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
Some of the findings of the study were that over 50 per cent children living on streets reported bad or very bad relationship or no relationship with the family.
The percentage of inhalant users  was higher in the children living on streets than in children living at home and the lifetime and last one year usage of opium was higher in the children living on streets than in children living at home.
The study "Assessment of pattern, profile and correlates of substance use among children in India" conducted through the National Dependent Treatment Centre at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, covered 135 sites across 27 states and two Union Territories with a sample size of 4,024 children.

If declining agricultural incomes and increasing unemployment have made drug addiction a culture in the states like Punjab, the irony of street kids are broken homes which forced them to reach the capital to get addicted into drugs due to torture by police and poverty.

Drugs are so easily available to school kids to street kids. The natural drugs like marijuana and hashish are mostly famous among teenagers as it fits their monthly pocket money. What has revolutionised the market are more lethal synthetic substances, popular with a generation that now experiments with cocktails simply put, a mix and match of drugs.
Until a few months earlier, a new and cheap drug Mephedrone, commonly called meow meow was legally available and could even be ordered online. A poor man’s cocaine, this white powder cost just Rs.150 per gram. With almost 80,000 children between the ages of thirteen and sixteen believed to be addicted to meow meow, the drug was banned in February this year. But the market for Cocaine, which costs Rs. 3,000 for a gram is only expanding, with increasing popularity amongst the rich and glamourous. It is also one of the most dangerous, laced with unknown substances, including powdered glass. The purer it is, the higher it costs. If you want the best, you could even be paying Rs. 20,000 per gram.

Most of the kids who were found selling books flowers, clean cars, beg and steal at the traffic signals in Delhi were aged between the age of 8 and 17 years. A survey conducted by the NGO Salaam Balak Trust says that most of the kids reached the capital to either escape an alcoholic father or a step mother who was to push them into prostitution. They took a train to Delhi, got snuffed by gangs roaming the platforms and since then, it has been a story of rape, torture, drugs and starvation.

The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) came out with shocking figures of crimes against children: 5,484 children were raped and 1,408 others killed in India last year. In the Capital alone, 29 children were murdered and 304 raped in 2010. But these figures do not include even a fraction of crimes committed against street children. "Not even 10% cases of rape, sodomy or murder of street children are recorded. Who is going to file an FIR for these children who have been abandoned by society and trapped by gangs?" asks Prabhakar Goswami, Director of i-India, a Jaipur-based NGO which runs a helpline for street children.

The NCRB figures are based on FIR and daily diary reports and, therefore, hide more than they reveal as the worst victims of child abuse are not counted at all. "Street children are abuse physically, mentally and sexually on a daily basis. They get trapped in a cycle of abuse that leads to drugs and crimes, but no one is bothered," says Sanjay Gupta, Director of Chetna, an NGO working for street children in Delhi. "In Delhi, there are at least five lakh street children, but in government records, less than 50,000 exist."

More than 20,000 people have committed suicide due to drug addiction related issues in the last 10 years. There’s an urgent call to treat this as the epidemic. Else rural or urban, this calls for urgent attention or else we’ll soon be facing India’s lost generation.

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