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With no de-addiction centres, child addicts in MP suffer juvenile homes

nationpaper Updated: Jul 03, 2016, 08:12 IST

BHOPAL: Let’s call him Vijay, a 16-year-old runaway from Bihar who washed up at Bhopal railway station. He had fled home to save himself from his father who tottered back every night, fuelled by alcohol, and beat him up. The teenager had no mother to offer him protection from the abuse.

At the station, he met a gang of teens. He wanted a job and they offered to take him in but with one condition: he had to be like them and do what they did, including drugs. They let him hawk bottled drinking water to railway passengers.

Vijay remembers the first prick from a needle that his friends shared with him. “It was painful. I used to take a combination of avil and buprenorphine”, a cheap, legal, easy-to-buy substitute for heroin. With the high, came dare. He broke railway properties and got collared by a Railway Protection Force (RPF) constable.

RPF chose a wrong address to send him—a juvenile home, which housed underage offenders ranging from petty thieves to murderers. The railway police had no other option as there is no government-run de-addiction centre across MP.

In 1989-90, the government had opened some de-addiction and rehabilitation centres but later shut them down for lack of fund and qualified staff. The state doesn’t even have a count of child addicts.

There are some private deaddiction centres but they are too expensive, taking Rs 14,000 to 35,000 for 21 days’ treatment. But, doctors say the centres don’t have qualified staff or social justice department affiliation.

Recently in Gwalior, the district administration raided a private de-addiction centre where addicts were found hanging upside down and tied to chairs. The addicts told the officials that they were beaten up to give up on drugs. The centre didn’t have any counsellor or doctor.

State social justice minister Gopal Bhargava said, “There are no government-run centres as the budget of social justice department is very low.”

The Bhopal police have never arrested a child drug addict, and the adult addicts that they pick up are sent to jail. It is the railway police that routinely rounds up child addicts as most of them live near the slums along the tracks.

A senior RPF officer said: “If they catch any minor while taking drugs, they are send to juvenile homes as it is the only way to keep these kids away from the drugs.” The juvenile home doors open only when the addicts show signs they can stay clean, and it may take months or a year.

Child rights activist Prashant Dubey said, “Rehabilitation is necessary to save these kids from drug menace. RPF is putting in efforts but it isn’t the appropriate way. The government needs to do something”.

“I did a study three years ago. Daily four children arrive at railway station and some of them get addicted to drugs and some are sent back to their homes,” said Dubey.

Using anecdotal evidence, psychiatrists and doctors say count of child addicts is rising.

Gandhi Medical Colle ge psychiatrists RN Sahu said, “Absence of de-addiction centre is a major problem in MP. Children are taking different types of drugs and their number is rising by the day. Things are getting worse”.

The ease with which children can buy the addictive stuff from chemists is firing up the demand, said activists.

Dubey said, “According to Section 77 of Juvenile Justice Act 2015, even tobacco can’t be sold to children but here chemists are selling drugs like oxytocin, avil, buprenorphine and diamorphine without prescription”.

Recently HT had written about how street minors in Bhopal are taking oxytocin shots under the belief that the drug will fast-forward body growth, help land jobs and keep bullying adults away.

Food and Drugs joint controller Pramod Shukla said, “We receive such complaints on regular basis. But, we are not aware that such drugs are being provided to children. I will check”.

But once out of juvenile homes, it’s still hard for children like Vijay to say no to the temptation fully. He keeps off hard drugs for the fear of police but succumbs to the urge to tame his taut nerves with beginner’s stuff: whitener and dendrite.

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