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26 June, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Number of child drug addicts on the rise across country

MD HABIBULLA and SAUGATO BOSU, Dhaka

Shuktara, 8, came to Dhaka from Sirajganj two years ago. She used to stay at the Hazrat Shah Ali Mazar in Mirpur, said a street urchin who had first offered her "dandi". After sniffing it, she became addicted to it. “It gives me a different type of feeling,” says the child. “An unknown person took me to Dhaka from my native village, promising to give me a job in a garment outlet. But he left me on the street. As I did not have any relatives in the capital, I had to find a shelter at the Mazar,” said Shuktara. She said: “Since we stay on the street, every day we hear many abusive words from pedestrians. To forget the anguish, we take drugs.”

"Earlier, I used to smoke cigarettes after collecting them from friends. At one stage, I was addicted to drugs like cannabis and phensidyl. I felt good," said Hasibul, a 10-year-old street child in the city, hailing from Tangail district.

He lost his mother at an early age and had been living in a slum in the capital with his father. But after some time he was forced to live in a separate house, as his father got married for the second time.

Hasibul now works as a human hauler (leguna) helper and earns Tk. 150-200 per day. He spends all of his earning on drugs.  

Another boy, Jisan, lives with a group of 5-6 boys in a slum in the capital. He spends

the whole day collecting rundown metal utensils and other articles known as “bhangari”. He usually returns home in the evening, and then starts enjoying “dandi”. A large number of street children are getting addicted to drugs across the country, especially in the capital, and also becoming involved in serious crime.

According to an ICDDR’B study carried out in 2016, Bangladesh has 4,45,000 street children. Of them, over 3,00,000 are in the capital and most of them are drug addicts.

According to the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), 30-35 lakh people are addicted to various drugs, of whom 1 to 2 per cent are children. In Bangladesh, about 77 per cent of drugs abusers are adolescents and youths, aged between 15 and 35.  Of them, approximately 20 per cent are women.

Various NGO surveys have revealed that at least 50-60 lakh people are addicted to drugs across the country.

DNC sources said although the country had a good number of drug rehabilitation centres, most of them were not registered with the DNC.   

Like other countries, Bangladesh is set to observe International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking today. The DNC is going to hold a day-long programme on the occasion.

This time, the theme for this special day is “health for justice, justice for health”.

Experts say drug addiction is increasing among street children who live without families, love and care.

The government should launch a comprehensive campaign, involving public and private organisations, schools, universities and civil society, to fight the menace, they suggest.

Khurshed Alam, assistant director of the DNC, told The Independent that it is very difficult to give the exact number of child drug abusers, but a survey was on to ascertain the figure. He said it is estimated that the number would not exceed two lakh.

“Most of them are street children and addicted to either glue-sniffing, popularly known as ‘dandi’ or marijuana because they are relatively cheap,” he added.

According to police sources, the number of child drug addicts is increasing alarmingly on Dhaka streets. They are also involved in serious crimes.

Police sources said groups of criminals raise these children with drugs and use them in illegal activities. Sometimes the children are arrested but the gangs suck them back into crime once they are released.  Most of these kids are between 7 and 14 and are involved in peddling drugs for traders.

Wishing anonymity, a police officer of the Detective Branch (DB) told The Independent that they used to see child drug addicts on the streets, but did not arrest them earlier. There was no initiative to rehabilitate them properly.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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