New Delhi, Oct 18: Gayatri Devi, 52, a resident of Badarpur, South Delhi, had noticed her son Nagesh, aged about 14, bleary eyed and drowsy, days before he died. “He often held big handkerchiefs to his nose”, Gayatri says, adding “I never knew he was inhaling death”. With this she breaks down. Her Husband, Prakash Singh, in his late fifties, helps her with a glass of water.
What Gayatri didn’t suspect was, that her son was inhaling correction fluid, which is commonly found in stationery shops. “He got addicted to these drugs in his school” says Nagesh’s father, Prakash who himself is a teacher in a Government run school in South Delhi.
The boys would sit at the back, bow down from time to time, hold the hankie to their noses and take a deep breath. At first I didn’t knew what they were doing but when I, along with other teachers caught them, we came to know about all this
Substances such as glue, paints, polish and even pain-relieving ointments are being used as secondary drugs by many young boys and girls in Delhi. Substance or drug abuse also has been quite prevalent in government and civic agency-run schools. These addictive substances also include whitener and nail polish remover, which can be found at any normal stationary shop outside or nearer to any school in Delhi.
Substance abuse among children and adolescents is higher than the actual drug abuse. Children like Nagesh, in their early teens have already paid heavy price by losing their life to this rampant abuse in Delhi.
Deepak Mehta, 32, is a teacher in a Government run school in Old Delhi. He has been teaching there from last three years and has caught many students using whiteners and pain relievers as drugs. “The boys would sit at the back, bow down from time to time, hold the hankie to their noses and take a deep breath. At first I didn’t know what they were doing but when I, along with other teachers caught them, we came to know about all this”, Deepak says.
The government of Delhi has also recently drawn up a list of 250 schools, out of which more than 140 are run by municipal agencies – in areas such as Badarpur, Jahangirpuri, Old Delhi, Seelampur, Mahipalpur, Rohini, Civil Lines and Sultanpuri.
The Department of Women and Child Welfare and Directorate of Education, Delhi, till 2012 have identified 98 government schools which are categorized as vulnerable. Most of these schools were found in South Delhi and East Delhi. “The instances of substance abuse located in these schools facilitate abuse at a very high rate”, states an official survey done by these two state run departments.
Counselors and psychiatric consultants in the capital agree that substance abuse is increasingly picking up as a trend among school goers. Dr. Suresh Tripathi, a psychiatrist at AIIMS Delhi, attributes the rampant use of these substances as drugs to the easy availability of these substances, especially the licit ones. He says that it has been the most common reason for continuation, followed by relief from stress, and acceptability among friends. “Adolescents are in a transitional phase and confusion. They can sometimes make themselves susceptible to taking up unfavorable habits and the easy availability of these products makes it easier for them”. He says that substance use can at times also lead to death apart from other health hazards. “Every day, we get 4-5 cases, which are being treated because of the substance abuse and all of these patients are mostly under 15. Majority of them are school goers”, Dr. Tripathi adds.
A survey by ‘CHILDLINE India Foundation’ – a NGO, reveals that 63.6 % of patients coming in for treatment to get rid of drugs were introduced to drugs at a young age below 15 years and most of these patients started to use whitener and nail polish remover as drugs. According to another report 13.1% of the people involved in drug and substance abuse in India, are below 20 years.
Adolescents are in a transitional phase and confusion. They can sometimes make themselves susceptible to taking up unfavorable habits and the easy availability of these products makes it easier for them
Sanjeev Sabharwal is a lawyer. In 2011 he filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Delhi High Court in 2011 on substance abuse issue. Sanjeev says that most of the vulnerable schools identified are run by municipal agencies. “On my personal level, I carried out a research in which I came to know that most of these vulnerable schools present in Delhi are run by civic agencies. Honorable court also accepted my research work but hasn’t done anything on it yet.” Sanjeev says.
“We are taking preventive steps to fight against substance abuse in school going children. We are organizing counselings for children and encourage them to shun these drugs.” says Amit Singla, director of education, Delhi.
On contrary, Mahinder Nagpal, leader of the house, North Delhi Municipal Corporation rubbishes these claims. He says that students in MCD are under proper care and protection and all these allegations are baseless. “MCD schools provide utmost protection to the students. Yes there might be some incidents of substance abuse in our schools but not in every. Students in MCD can’t afford such things”, Nagpal says.
According to the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 of Indian constitution, children affected by substance abuse are considered as children in need of care and protection. “But much said on paper, nothing has been done till” says Sanjeev.
Sanjeev asserts that educational institutions must ensure strict dealing with this issue and help in ending this menace among school children.
Children affected by Substance Abuse