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Hungry, street kids take to drugs in Bangalore

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Bangalore:  A twelve-year-old ragpicker near Kempe Gowda Bus Station in Bangalore, and a runaway from Patna, regularly sniffs glue, particularly Dendrite and Erazex to keep hunger at bay. Another fourteen-year-old girl, who does odd jobs, suffers from severe alcohol abuse.

They are just two figures among the large number of street children in Bangalore who are victims of substance  abuse, including inhalants, alcohol, cannabis, tobacco and gutka. On the eve of International Children's Rights Day on Friday, Childline, a national emergency phone outreach for children in distress and in need of care and protection, said that two in every 10 street children in Bangalore, are victims of substance abuse.

Child rights activists said that the city needs to find a solution to end the menace of substance abuse among street children. "The statistics are spine-chilling. Our latest survey, covering 100 kids, states that two in every 10 street children in Bangalore are victims of one or other substance abuse, including inhalants, alcohol, cannabis, tobacco and gutka," says Nagasimha G Rao, nodal supervisor of Childline.

Experts say that most of the street children are introduced to the world of drugs in a fit of adventure and experimentation, and gradually lead themselves to addiction as it also helps to control hunger. According to child rights activists, roughly, there are about 1,00,000 street children in Bangalore. Almost 80 children are believed to run away from home and are found at bus stations and railway stations everyday. Some live with their parents in urban slums, while most are employed in the unorganised sector and work as ragpickers, vendors, coolies, doing odd jobs in vehicle repair shops and eating joints.

"Most of the street children leave their homes because of economic hardships and migrate to cities in search of jobs. A smaller, but significant number had been rendered homeless because of their families breaking up due to death or separation, or because of significant drug abuse in one or both parents," said Maria Theresa Sindu, city coordinator, Childline.
Activists say that data reveal an interesting phenomenon of progression of drug use among children.

"Most of the minors (about10-11 years) start with tobacco and graduate to inhalants when older. By the time they are 13, they would have moved on to alcohol. They also experiment with illicit drugs like cannabis and brown sugar, etc at this age," added Theresa.

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