The Chairperson of Child welfare committee, Neil Roberts, talks about drug abuse amongst toddlers and children begging roadsides and the steps required to curb the menace.
While crossing the roads in city beautiful soon to be Smart City, Many people might have noticed that toddlers sleeping in iron pram trolled by a street beggar is always lost, neither moving, crying or shouting with hunger.
“In our hearts, we always think that this person might have given some drug to this child. BUT the administration and system working for welfare for these never ever had tested their blood sample to check if the small one was given any drug to sleep all day and night? “ says Shikha an NGO Volunteer. Shikha’s question is valid and brainstorming, Chandigarh Administration or any state where they find such children, Can’t they do blood sampling of such children under Child Protection Act? Well, As Its Children’s day after some hours and Chandigarh Administration along with other State Child Welfare committees and Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) is still waiting to curb the menace of drug addiction amongst toddlers and children.
Media4pillar Team had word with Child Welfare Committee Chairperson, Neil Roberts and delivered questions of Shikha to him. As per Neil Roberts,” There is no second doubt that these toddlers are given some narcotic. This is the only reason why these kids are so lost in pram”. Explaining further Roberts exhorts that as of now, “if any body found giving narcotic drug to toddler or child, there is a provision under law to get him/her imprisoned for 5 to 7 years. Unfortunately, there is no provision or even proposal to check blood samples of these children as it needs many stake holders to take worth action.”
Out of the 350 children staying with us, 16 were victims of drug abuse
Out of the 350 children staying with us, 16 were victims of drug abuse, while six were found to be purely into drugs. The youngest one among them is seven years old and the eldest one is 14 years old. All are males.
As per the findings of a recent survey by Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CCPCR) it was found that Manimajra and Sector 25 were the areas where the maximum number of children were found consuming drugs. They were economically not sound, or their fathers were alcoholics and their mothers had left home because of that. We came across children who were working to fund their fathers’ drinking habit or to support their parents. But since they were earning, they had the freedom to explore all sorts of drugs. Recently, we had a couple of children from Punjab who used to go around collecting newspapers and then sell them just to buy drugs. We have sent them to the Child Rights Commission in Mohali.
How many such cases have come up at Snehalaya since January?
Under various categories including missing children, child beggary, rag-picking, child labour, kids of single parents or orphans, sexual abuse, physical abuse, etc, the Child Rights Committee has received 450 cases since January. The most number of cases (110) fall under the category of street children. As many as 49 cases pertain to sexual abuse.
If not counselling, what all purposes does Snehalaya serve?
Snehalaya acts as a shelter because we do not have a shelter home for such children in the city. If we get into the provisions of the Act, it says that when children are rescued or found abandoned, they should be moved to a shelter home. For example, a missing child who is sent to a shelter home spends, say, two-three months there till his family is traced. However, if his/her family can’t be traced, he/she is shifted to a children’s home, and Snehalaya is a registered children’s home. This is why we have children who have been with us for four-five years. There are some children who belong to the same family. We also have children coming to stay with us and then leaving the next day.
The CCPCR survey highlighted there are over 1,200 child beggars across the city, of which 40% go to schools. After attending school, they take to the markets and prominent light points to seek alms; during weekends, they work fulltime. Most beggars, mostly children of migrant people, are from states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar.
- Given drugs by their masters
The city has over 1,200 child beggars and majority of them are found in Sector 20 and its surrounding areas like Sectors 15, 17, 20, 22, 34, 35, 40, 44 markets. Aging between 10 and 14, most of them are putting up in colonies of Hallomajra, Dadumajra and Colony Number 4. Many of them attend schools and beg only during weekends, earning around Rs 300-500 a day. It has been learnt some of them are even provided drugs by their masters.
- Earlier plans failed
Roberts expressed, “During a drive started in August last year, the administration had planned to pick all the children found begging on the city roads for rehabilitation. However, during the month long drive, many parents had raised voice by shouting slogans against the administration for rounding up their children. Another similar effort by the administration also failed due to no sustained efforts.”