It is not every day that a nine-year-old speaks about how humiliating it is to see her drug-addict mother suffer the consequences of her habit.
“My parents are both drug addicts. My father has recently been shifted to a rehabilitation centre but my mother is still into drugs. It is humiliating to see her suffering,” says Kumkum who used to live in a slum in Nizamuddin. Now she lives in an NGO shelter home in the same area.
The threats that social evils pose for young, impressionable minds are many. They are more so for street children as is clear from the vivid descriptions they provide about the ills that they are so freely exposed to.
She recalls seeing a young man shooting drugs when she used to live in a slum. “He used to do drugs in front of us and slashed his upper body with blades. We tried to stop him but he threatened us, so we gave up,” she says.
All Kumkum wants is to live with her parents. But it is for everyone’s best that they stay separately, she says wistfully with a maturity beyond her years.
While she is among the few to have been relocated to a shelter home, scores are exposed to abuse, addiction and violence on the streets.
10-year-old Jaya, who lives with her parents in a slum in Shahpur Jat, says an addict in the neighbourhood forces children into begging. “When the children rebel, he cuts off their limbs, leaving them no other option,” she says.
Both Kumkum and Jaya are at an intervention programme ‘Taare Zameen Par’ organised by Plan India in association with eight NGOs. The five-day social arts intervention for behaviour change aims to enhance the creative capabilities of street children through activities such as painting, dancing and acting. It ends on June 26— International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
“We have a few children who have faced the social evils and others who have witnessed them…Living in slums, they are more exposed to begging, drug abuse, murders, child labour and female foeticide,” says Plan India executive director Bhagyashri Dengle.
“Through Plan communities and the NGOs, we educate them about their rights using tools like photography, journalism, workshops, theatre, music, dance and art…We provide them a family environment which helps them share their problems,” says Dengle.
The children’s works put up at the venue speak volumes about the influences.
Twelve-year-old Vinod, who lives in a slum in Mahipalpur, has painted a child with a pile of bricks on his head with a message “Please stop child labour”. He says, “I have many friends who are engaged in child labour. It breaks my heart to see children of my own age, lifting heavy weights at construction sites or washing utensils at tea shops, while I go to school. I feel that they too should be able to learn.” Vinod wants to study further and help the underprivileged.
The children at the event touch upon themes of through puppetry, dancing, singing, mask-making and other activities. Jaya says dancing helps ease her ordeal. She says, “I really enjoy dancing. I want to become a dancer when I grow up.”
(Names have been changed to protect identity)