ELL goes to Delhi: stories from the Indian capital

Children using correction fluid as an inhaler. Pic: Narrative.ly

Children using correction fluid as an inhaler.
Pic: Narrative.ly

This week the team behind Eastlondlines has been working with journalism students at Jamia Millia Ismalia University in Delhi to produce the Delhi Gazette, a website much like ELL and covering stories in the Indian capital. Many of these stories reflect the same issues and events that are found in London, so over the next few days we are showcasing a selection of reports which highlight different aspects of life in a city of 25 million people. Here is the first report, on child drug abuse. You can find the Delhi Gazette here.


Addicted to sniffing: Child drug abuse in Delhi

Gayatri Devi, 52, a resident of Badarpur, South Delhi, had noticed her son Nagesh, aged about 14, bleary eyed and drowsy, days before he died. “He often held big handkerchiefs to his nose”, Gayatri says. “I never knew he was inhaling death”. With this she breaks down. Her Husband, Prakash Singh, in his late fifties, helps her with a glass of water.

What Gayatri didn’t suspect was that her son was inhaling correction fluid, which is commonly found in stationery shops. “He got addicted to these drugs in his school,” says Nagesh’s father, Prakash, who is a teacher in a Government run school in South Delhi.

Substances such as glue, paints, polish and even pain-relieving ointments are being used as secondary drugs by many young boys and girls in Delhi. Substance or drug abuse also has been quite prevalent in government and civic agency-run schools. Addictive substances also include whitener and nail polish remover.

A survey by ‘CHILDLINE India Foundation’ – an NGO – reveals that 63.6 % of patients coming in for treatment to get rid of drugs were introduced to drugs at a young age. According to another report, 13.1% of the people involved in drug and substance abuse in India, are below 20 years.

Deepak Mehta, 32, is a teacher in a Government run school in Old Delhi. He has been teaching there for last three years and has caught many students using whiteners and pain relievers as drugs. “The boys would sit at the back, bow down from time to time, hold the handkerchief to their noses and take a deep breath.  I didn’t know what they were doing but when I, along with other teachers caught them, we came to know about it,” Mehta says.

The government of Delhi has also recently drawn up a list of 250 schools, out of which more than 140 are run by municipal agencies in areas such as Badarpur, Jahangirpuri, Old Delhi, Seelampur, Mahipalpur, Rohini, Civil Lines and Sultanpuri.

The Department of Women and Child Welfare and Directorate of Education, Delhi, has categorized 98 government schools as vulnerable. Most of these schools were found in South Delhi and East Delhi. The instances of substance abuse located in these schools are at a very high rate states an official survey done by these two state run departments.

Counsellors and psychiatric consultants in the capital agree that substance abuse is increasingly picking up as a trend among school goers. Dr. Suresh Tripathi, a psychiatrist at AIIMS Delhi, attributes the rampant use of these substances as drugs to the easy availability of these substances. He says that it has been the most common reason for continuation, followed by relief from stress, and acceptability among friends.

“Adolescents are in a transitional phase and confusion. They can sometimes make themselves susceptible to taking up unfavourable habits and the easy availability of these products makes it easier for them,” Dr. Tripathi says. Substance abuse can at times also lead to death apart from other health hazards. “Every day, we get 4-5 cases. Most of the patients are school goers”, Dr. Tripathi adds.

Sanjeev Sabharwal, a lawyer, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Delhi High Court in 2011 on substance abuse issue. Sabharwal says that most of the vulnerable schools identified are run by municipal agencies. “On my personal level, I carried out a research in which I came to know that most of these vulnerable schools present in Delhi are run by civic agencies. Honorable court also accepted my research work but hasn’t done anything on it yet,” he says.

“We are taking preventive steps to fight against substance abuse in school going children. We are organizing counselling sessions for children and encourage them to shun drugs.” says Amit Singla, director of education, Delhi.

According to the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 of Indian constitution, children affected by substance abuse are considered as children in need of care and protection. “But nothing much has been done to counter substance abuse in Delhi,” Singla says.

By Sheikh Saaliq

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