Of the over one lakh children living on Delhi’s streets, Meena Bazaar in Jama Masjid, Hanuman Mandir and Minto Road near Connaught Place, Old Delhi and New Delhi railway station and Inter-State Bus Terminus have been identified as pockets that have the highest density of drug-dependent street children.

According to a recently conducted need assessment study “Drug using street children”, done by non-government organisation Sharan Society for Services to Urban Poor released on Friday, drug-dependent street children often get pushed into becoming criminals. It said that girl children on the street get sexually exploited and are forced into sex work and drug use with no future option but to become commercial sex workers with drug dependence. The study aimed at finding out about the condition of street children in Delhi looked at their demographics, living status, drug abuse habits and kind of work done by them. Non-government organisation Family Health International country director Dr. Bitra George said: “Sample population for the study were children between 6-16 years; and almost 57 per cent of them lived on pavements/under bridges, 30 per cent stayed in shelter/care homes and rehabilitation centres and few with their families. During the study we found that children used drugs for numbing effect to cope with the sexual and physical exploitation and the abuse that they have to face to stay on the streets.’’

Another disturbing factor that was found as part of the study was that 40 per cent of the children noted that they faced harassment by different agencies and 91 per cent of them claimed that this was by the police, 4.5 per cent by local ‘goonads’ and 4.5 per cent from other agencies. Substance abuse and drug use was also found to be rampant with 93 per cent of the interviewed children stating that they were currently using drugs.

As per the study, 41.3 per cent children claimed that they were using nail polish/ whitener/solvent, 29 per cent used tobacco with other substances, 11 per cent children used charas and 1.6 per cent used brown sugar. Sixteen per cent children said they were treated for drug/substance abuse while 72 per cent claimed that they had undergone treatment in rehabilitation centre.

Children staying with their parents also noted that they managed to earn up to Rs. 30 per day to buy solvents which would last them for at least two days. Also, a few children who were treated for drug use were found to be going back to the streets and drugs again.

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