The 14-year-old has spent half his life sniffing fluids and smoking heroin.
But I am a changed man now, he says, I deserve a chance. The 14-year-old lives in a rehabilitation centre run by the Delhi government – no place for a teenager. But he is not the only one. There are 74 others whose lives intertwine at this Old Delhi rehabilitation centre for children using drugs.
A 12-year-old confesses he once stole a cycle rickshaw to buy heroin. “We had planned a heroin party and needed money. We stole a cycle rickshaw from the road and sold it for ₹ 350. I am ashamed of it. It was a sin,” he says.
Most of Delhi’s child addicts are addicted to marijuana and smack (heroin). Rajesh Kumar, director of the Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM), a non-profit that works towards prevention of drug abuse, says some kids start drugs as early as the age of 6 or 7. “It starts with fluid, which is cheaper. Then they graduate to marijuana and smack. There are many cases of children infected with HIV because they shared needles while injecting drugs,” says Kumar. The organisation runs a rehab centre only for children.
At the Old Delhi centre, doctors visit once a week to give medicines, which help fight addiction. Two teachers hold classes every day for the children. The change is visible. A 13-year-old, who has never been to school, is reading a book. He prefers not to be disturbed. “Education is my only hope.”