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Losing their childhood to drugs
January 16, 2006 12:17 IST
Sandeep lost his childhood, many years back to the mean streets of Delhi.
At an age when children haggle for pocket money, this 13-year-old earns and spends most of it on intoxicants.
The fact that he continues to be addicted, even after going through a "de-addiction programme" questions the effectiveness of such programmes, say experts working in the field.
Sandeep earns about Rs 150-200 a day by rag-picking at the New Delhi railway station and spends more than half of it to buy correction fluid and alcohol everyday.
There are several children who are addicted like Sandeep living on the streets of the national capital.
A survey conducted by an international non governmental organisation shows that almost 70-80 per cent of children living at railway stations in Delhi are into substance abuse.
Several of them, the study says, want to get out of the problem, but have no clue how to do so.
People working with street kids attribute this alarming and persistent problem of addiction to the absence of a specialised de-addiction programme exclusively for street children.
"Any level of addiction in children leads to a lot of disorientation and vulnerability mainly because of the substance. And as we don't have rehabilitation centres exclusively for children, this problem is persistent," says Mrinalini Rao, programme director (India) of Railway Children.
Most of these children get addicted to intoxicants to "numb the pain of the beating they are subjected to by the police, to supress their hunger and also to be a part of the group," she says.
Agreeing with her is Raj Mangal Prasad, of Association for Development -- an NGO working on advocacy aspect of children's issues.
"Most of these kids say that they want to get out of addiction, but have no clue how to go about it. Government does not have any infrastructure to deal with children who are addicted," he says.
In 2005, AFD had taken 15 addicted children from New Delhi and Old Delhi stations to the Child Welfare Committee of the Social Welfare Department.
The department official reportedly rejected their plea saying they did not have facilities to provide medical treatment to these children.
"Getting a place in a NGO-run centre is also not easy," he says.
"Most of them charge money as the government grant covers only the cost of 90-day treatment. Once these children return from such short-term rehablitation they get into the habit again. There is absolutely no system to monitor these kids," he explains.
The CWC, which was apprised about this issue by the organisation, has notified the Social Welfare Department about it.
"This is one missing link in the welfare programme for street kids," says M N Vidyarthi, a member of CWC.
"Government of Delhi or government of India per se, has no rehablitation programme for addicted children. The department has identified some institutes to deal with this. But these institutes charge for the treatment, which the children can't afford," Vidyarthi says.
"A lot of intervention is needed in this regard," he adds. NGOs are also stressing the need to address this issue immediately.
"De-addiction programme must be integrated with other rehabilitation programmes of street children and there is a urgent need to address this issue," says Mrinalini.
These children should be made aware of the consequences of such acts. Education should be an essential part of the programme if these children have to be made to realise the importance of a better standard of life, she says.
"What is needed for any organisation working with street children is to have a strength-based programme leading to a personal transformation of an individual and most importantly sense of future has to be imparted to these kids," she adds.