Chitta Crisis Among India’s Homeless Children and Villages

Drug consumption has become one of the biggest social problems in India over the past few decades. Although it is considered to be one of the most developed states of India, Punjab has been facing a drugs epidemic for a very long time. With other cities and states like Mizoram, Manipur, Goa and Mumbai also having sever drug problems, the government of India is beginning to assess drug abuse nationwide. Some of the findings from the government have shown that there are over 2 million drug users in Punjab alone, with 99% of the users being male.

The most commonly abused drug in Punjab is heroin, known locally as chitta, with 53% of people in a recently completed survey claiming to use it. Drug use is more common in small villages, where  narcotics are easily available and while 89% of drug addicts are educated and literate, there is a lack of job opportunities being one of the main reason people are turning to drugs. The slow economic growth results in less employment opportunities for India’s increasing population. On average, Rs. 1400 is spent on heroin by drug addicts every day in Punjab. Opium users spend Rs. 340 per day and pharmaceutical opioid users spent Rs. 265 per day.

Drug use is also rife with homeless children, the survey also revealed that peer pressure and using drugs to avoid hunger, cold and poverty were the main reasons for using. More than 60% of the homeless children surveyed were still living with their families, of which 20% claimed to be living on the street to support their family. Only 10% were attending school as many had dropped out of education due to drug abuse.

The situation is not only in Punjab but wide spread across India. The Delhi government is now starting to run dedicated juvenile drug rehabilitation centres in six hospitals across the territory. In the Punjab survey, it was reported that more than 80% have attempted to give up drugs but only approximately 30% of them have actually received help or treatment.

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