Easy availability of ‘fluids’ makes substance abuse popular among kids | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Easy availability of ‘fluids’ makes substance abuse popular among kids

An eight-year-old ragpicker confidently walks up to a shopkeeper in Nizamuddin (east) with Rs 30 clutched in his hand. Mallica Joshi and Shaswati Das report.

delhi Updated: Mar 17, 2011 23:31 IST

An eight-year-old ragpicker confidently walks up to a shopkeeper in Nizamuddin (east) with Rs 30 clutched in his hand. The shop has chips, cold drinks, toys and other knickknacks on display, but none of these hold any charm for the boy.

He is here to get a bottle of ‘fluid’ — a term used by street children for white eraser fluid or whitener — that can give him an instant high.

Whitener worth Rs 20 lakh is sold in the Capital every day, according to a 2008 study by Chetna, an NGO. “This is a very modest number as the figures have risen drastically since the study,” said Sanjay Gupta of Chetna.

While whiteners come in a pack with a correction fluid and a diluter, some shopkeepers are ready to sell only one of the two for lesser price. So, while the entire pack costs Rs 26, a bottle of correction fluid alone costs Rs 15. The more concentrated diluter costs Rs 20. The shopkeeper ends up making a profit of Rs 9.

The Hindustan Times visited one such roadside shop in Nizamuddin (east) and bought three bottles.

Grocery shops have no reason to stock whiteners — other than that to cater to the addicts — since they do not sell any other stationery item. Even cigarette sellers in areas such as Sarai Kale Khan and Nizamuddin were found to be selling whiteners. While not many ‘confessed to the crime’, the few who did are doing a brisk business unabashedly.

“If we don’t give it to them someone else will. There is no point trying to stop them,” said a shopkeeper in Nizamuddin.

Shops such as these in areas, which have a high percentage of street children, are one of the biggest reasons for the growing numbers of children falling prey to fluid addiction.

“The easy availability of these items is the biggest problem. The responsibility of not selling items such as whiteners and glues lies solely with the retailers since they know who is buying the product and why,” said Amod Kanth, chairperson, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

The police, however, said they haven’t come across many minors using correction fluid.

“If minors addicted to drugs are rounded up, we tell their wards. Sending these children to rehabilitation clinics is completely up to their guardians,” said Virender Singh Chahal, additional commissioner of police (southwest).

A costly affair

While detecting addiction to drug can be difficult, putting the addict through a rehabilitation programme can be even more daunting.

Anil Bhandoola of the Astha-Kripa Rehab-ilitation Centre says children take around 72 hours to get addicted to substances such as correction fluid.

Though getting them to quit also takes almost the same time, relapse is common. It is more difficult for street children.

“Rehab costs anything between Rs 5,000-Rs 6,000 in any de-addiction centre and NGOs don’t have the resources to afford such expensive treatment,” said Sanjay Gupta of Chetna.