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Delhi’s Dark Secret: Rampant Drug Abuse by Street Children

In Delhi’s darkest underbelly street children indulge in drugs to make their life worthwhile.

Updated
India
4 min read
Delhi’s Dark Secret: Rampant Drug Abuse by  Street Children

The journey from one part of Nizamuddin to the other took me into a world that was in stark contrast to development and “India Shining”. A world where eight-year-olds were begging and stealing to buy their favourite drug.

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Nizamuddin Railway station. (Photo: Reuters)
Nizamuddin Railway station. (Photo: Reuters)

I reached Nizamuddin in the wee hours of a haze-filled Saturday morning. The auto-wallah took a very strategic route from Saket to Nizamuddin. I was enamoured by the plush bungalows of Nizamuddin East, and was then taken to the darkest underbelly of New Delhi – the dingy by-lanes of Sarai Kale Khan.

I was soon met by Sheenu (name changed), a 15-year-old who studies in the eight standard. Her father is an alcoholic and mother a sweeper. She lives with 25 other people in Rain Basera, a government-allotted sleeping space for immigrants.

Sheenu’s makeshift house in Sarai Kale Khan’s Rain Basera. (Photo: Aaqib Raza Khan)
Sheenu’s makeshift house in Sarai Kale Khan’s Rain Basera. (Photo: Aaqib Raza Khan)

Sheenu was a drug addict until a year ago. She overcame addiction with the help and support of her parents and the Chetna Foundation, an NGO that works with children and youth who indulge in drug and substance abuse.

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After exchanging pleasantries, Sheenu took us to Chetna’s rehabilitation centre for children and young adults. We were introduced to a bunch of excited kids who were diligently in activities, an escape from the daily rigmarole.

Children at the Chetna Foundation Centre. (Photo: Aaqib Raza Khan)
Children at the Chetna Foundation Centre. (Photo: Aaqib Raza Khan)

13-year-old Raju (name changed) sauntered in last. He had a faint smile on his face and an expression of contentment. He was shy at first but opened up a little while later. The reason behind Raju’s smile was the presence of “flute” in his pocket. Flute is a glue which is used by mechanics and cobblers to keep rubber together. Raju and his friends use it as a drug. They pump it out on a piece of cloth and sniff it. It gives them 15-minute-long high.

Raju showing off ‘flute”. (Photo: Aaqib Raza Khan)
Raju showing off ‘flute”. (Photo: Aaqib Raza Khan)
15 minutes is enough didi. It is for these 15 minutes that I work all day long collecting and selling garbage.
Raju
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These children live at the Nizamuddin railway station. They sift through garbage and earn about Rs 100 a day. However, they blow it all up on drugs.

A child sifting through garbage to find material worth selling. (Photo: Reuters)
A child sifting through garbage to find material worth selling. (Photo: Reuters)
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Raju’s friend, 15-year-old Satish (name changed) came from Bihar to Delhi when he was nine-years-old. Satish stayed with his uncle for a few months before he was unceremoniously chucked out. Satish took shelter at Nizamuddin railway station and thus began his spiral into drug addiction.

Peer pressure is the primary reason for doing drugs. I saw Raju and his friends perpetually high and I got attracted.
Satish

According to a study by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Substance Abuse by Children, 100 per cent of the children in conflict with the law were drug abusers, while 95.5 per cent of them staying in child care institutions were on drugs and 93 per cent of street children consumed narcotics.

The study also states that 88 per cent of the children consumed drugs due to “peer pressure”.

Satish’s friend sniffing flute at Nizamuddin station. (Photo: Aaqib Raza Khan)
Satish’s friend sniffing flute at Nizamuddin station. (Photo: Aaqib Raza Khan)
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These children unfortunately become easy targets for the society’s repressive apparatus, said the police.

Since street children are dotted around the stations, we are held responsible for everything that goes amiss. Irrespective of the crime, we are manhandled, beaten-up and taken into custody.
Hemant (name changed) a 15-year-old former addict.

Hemant quit drugs a year ago. But the easy availability of drugs at grocery stores alarms him.

Police is as involved in the drug racket as the suppliers. The peddlers bribe the police with drugs to get out of any situation.
Hemant

Shashwati Singh, the centre director at Chetna Foundation, echoes Hemant’s concerns.

It (drug and substance abuse by children) is a sordid situation. These children can easily slip into graver wrongs. Today, they are stealing and begging to buy drugs, tomorrow one dosen’t know what graver wrongs they may stoop to!
Shashwati Singh
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Sheenu further adds:

Unfortunately, children like us receive little or no support from the government. We are migrants from nearby states and find it immensely difficult to adjust. It becomes difficult to say no to nasha as it seems like the only escape.

I ended my discussion feeling disillusioned. If the right to education and to lead a healthy life are fundamental rights then why is it not preached in the country as aggressively as it is discussed in papers?

These children have to be extricated out of the world of drugs else we would be compromising on our future.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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