35% of India’s street kids are dealing with substance abuse: survey
Jul 17, 2013
It was one of those rare occasions when a union home minister talked about his childhood at a public event. Selling mithai (sweets) at a confectionery shop, receiving Rs 5 from an industrialist while in school, dreaming to make it big in life, breaking caste barriers to become a state governor and then the country’s home minister. Sushil Kumar Shinde was speaking at the launch of ‘situational analysis of street children in metro cities’ – a report by ASSOCHAM Ladies League in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Shinde said if given the right guidance, street kids can do wonders. He urged the industrial sector to sponsor street kids.
The study, findings of which were described as ‘spine chilling’ by Dr Harbeen Arora, chairperson, ASSOCHAM Ladies League, reveals that majority of street children in metro cities either run away from homes in distress, are orphans or have been abandoned. Based on the assessment of over 2000 street kids in four metros viz Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, the survey found that unpleasant home environment, which coerce kids to run away, vary from alcoholism, child abuse, to unemployed parents and poverty. Thirty percent of the respondents in the survey cited these reasons as why they fled their homes.
Being orphaned or abandoned is the second most dominant reason which bring children to streets, according to the study that surveyed children belonging to the age group 9- 16 years.
India has the highest number of street children in the world, as per the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Conservative estimates peg the number of children who live and work in the streets of India’s urban centres at around 20 million.
While living on the streets, kids are compelled to seek refuge in crime rings to avoid police harassment. They’re eventually pushed into substance abuse as a way of coping with life’s difficultties. While more than 35 per cent of street kids reported to have been on inhalants (solutions), 21 per cent said they smoke, 16 per cent are hooked to cannabis, 12 per cent to alcohol.
Barring a miniscule six percent who are skilled laborers, rest of the street kids surveyed are non- skilled workers contributing to the work force in unorganised sector. More than 40 percent do odd jobs as coolies, construction workers and labourers. Nineteen percent of respondents said they earn a living by working as rag- pickers.
The study raises questions about the government’s education for all policy, as 68 per cent of street kids were found illiterate. Only five per cent are literates above primary level.