| Social welfare director H.M. Shangpliang hands over a prize to a boy in Shillong on Tuesday. Telegraph picture |
Shillong, June 26: He has earned his living off the streets as a ragpicker for five years, since he was just a tender 10-year-old. “I started sniffing dendrite when I was 10 and continued with my habit for five years,” said Syed Mustafa (name changed), an urchin, for whom the streets of Shillong is home and the pavement his bed.
Speaking at a function organised by the state social welfare department here today on the occasion of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Mustafa explains why it is difficult to let go of his addiction. The withdrawal symptoms are painful but the dividends are welcome. “It has been a month since I have not sniffed dendrite and the money that I earn from collecting bottles is being spent on food,” he added.
Earlier, a part of the amount he used to collect from selling bottles was spent on purchasing the adhesive as sniffing dendrite made him forget the “stress and frustrations” of life. A rigorous routine where he had to duck for cover every time it rained, or being kicked awake by hoodlums who wanted to rob him of his scant savings.
Mustafa is aware that sniffing the adhesive had taken a toll on his health as he suffered from severe chest pain. “My health was affected and I could understand this after I experienced pain in my chest. After the pain became unbearable, I decided to give up the habit,” he said while exhorting others not to be drawn into the habit of sniffing dendrite.
But the boy, who gathered enough courage to speak in front of a packed hall, is not the only one. There are many like him whose childhood have been lost in the wilderness and in the hustle and bustle of city life. These children are vulnerable to exploitation and also to substance abuse.
Social welfare director H.M. Shangpliang, the chief guest on the occasion, admitted that such children need to be the target of intervention of government departments and NGOs.
He said the government has earmarked funds to hold detoxification and counselling camps in the state and also to carry out awareness programmes on drug abuse throughout the year.
Expressing concern over the pessimistic attitude of society towards addicts and their families, he called for a concerted effort to lend a helping hand to those who have become victims of substance abuse.
“Families with such children require help and it is time to reach out to them,” Shangpliang said.
Karate and youth icon Linza Fenny Syiem also spoke on the occasion, exhorting the audience, especially the youth, to remain alert and say “no” to drugs. Similar programmes were held in different districts and block capitals of the state.