No Place To Go

Ever since we started our program in January this year, we have been struggling to find a way to rehabilitate our two orphaned, homeless siblings: Rajkumar (15) and Sunita (8). There are several problems, the gravest of which is the fact that they are both severely addicted to correction fluid (Whitener). The siblings have family. An elder sister who lives with her husband and three children in Vikasnagar. This sister is also alcoholic and has an abusive husband and our kids have stated firmly that they will not stay with her in Vikasnagar. Rajkumar and Sunita’s maternal uncle also lives in Vikasnagar with his wife and children and though they are nice people, they refuse to take responsibility of the kids because of the kids’ addiction. Their maternal uncle told us recently that he had tried several times to get the children to stay with him as part of his family but within a few days, the urge to take inhalants becomes too strong for them and they usually run away from their relatives.

Recently, Sunita picked up a wallet that she found lying around near a carnival going on in town. We are not sure of how exactly the events played out but we know that Rajkumar tried to deposit the wallet at the announcements counter in the carnival and instead was picked up by the policemen there on charges of stealing, He was beaten severely and for many hours at the police station and was released only when his maternal uncle (who was thankfully in town that day) pleaded for his release.

In cases such as this, the gaping problems of our existing laws, structures and especially their implementation come to light. We cannot send the siblings to the de-addiction centre in Dehradun because it would be against the law to send a child less than 16 years of age to a de-addiction centre meant for adults. Unless the children spend time at rehab, they cannot be put into an ashram or orphanage because these shelters/orphanages do not have the expertise to deal with addict-children.

A way forward sometimes then is confounding. However, this is also the opportunity to address such gaps in the system at the policy-level and with support from partners and supporters, we are hopeful of finding a positive alternative for Rajkumar and Sunita. Until then, we have made temporary arrangements for them where they can be safe from such threats as they experienced recently.

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