White eraser fluid is the most commonly abused substance by children to get a high and there is lack of political will to regulate its sales as it is easily available, say civil rights activists.
From homeless to school children, this addiction is increasing and there is urgent need for wider debate and redressal of this issue, they say.
"There is no control on the sale of whitener fluid. It is readily available at stationary, paan and general shops. Children can buy it easily as they get good pocket money," says Sanjay Gupta, Director, Chetna, an NGO working for homeless kids here.
In 2008, Chetna had conducted a study which revealed total daily sales of the white eraser fluid in the range of Rs 27 lakh to Rs 67 lakh. The study was based on street children only and if school children are also included in it, the amount will be a lot higher.
"A bottle of the fluid costs around Rs 25 in the morning. By night, its demand goes up and it is sold at Rs 35 to Rs 40 by these shopkeepers. It is clear that this demand comes from addicted kids," says Director of Salaam Balak Trust, Kiran Jyoti.
Gupta says there are tecnicalities involved in controlling the sale of correction fluid.
"We tried to seek a ban on its sale and had approached the narcotics department but they refused terming it as a chemical," says Gupta.
According to Jyoti, the magnitude of the problem can be larger than expected since it is not easy to detect the addiction among school children.
"Substances like nail polish remover and thinner are commonly found in a house. Children can use their handkerchief to use it. It is as common as seeing somebody having a smoke," she says.
"We need strong political will which can target vested interests who push children in abuse of such addiction. Scrap dealers have been doing this with homless children," says Gupta.
Getting high by sniffing substances can be fatal and more potent for the human body due to direct effect on the brain. Sniffers are prone to the risk of intoxication and serious chest problems and restlessness which eventually can lead to death.
Dr Anju Dhawan, Associate Professor and Psychiatrist at AIIMS says factors like peer pressure, poor performance, curiosity and easy availability lead to a child's addiction to such substances.
She has a word of caution for the addicted children. "It can affect memory and intelligence of a child. If used for a longer period, it can cause stroke and liver failure," she says.