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Children surviving on porn, not food

In a dark and dingy room, the only thing visible is the blue flickering light from a television set as a dozen-odd boys, teens and below, watch with eyes riveted on the screen. ‘Ohs’ and ‘ahs’ are heard on occasion. At first it seems they are watching a Hindi film, but a closer look reveals they are hooked on to a porn movie.

The boys are runaways or vagabonds who beg at many of Delhi’s crossroads or are rag-pickers. According to child activists and NGOs working with these children, most of them are hooked to either porn movies or video games and spend most of their earnings on them, on occasions forgetting to eat. ‘I can sit for hours playing video games or watching movies. I spend Rs 50 or more on them. So I have stopped eating from outside and survive on tea and beedis,’ Vishal Kushwaha, a rag picker, said. The 17-year-old rag-picker makes Rs 150 to Rs 200 a day.

‘We watch the movies in a tea stall which has television sets and DVD players,’ said Kushwaha, who along with a dozen teenagers regularly watches porn in Sarai Kale Khan in south Delhi. Showing no embarrassment while talking about his ‘addiction’, Kushwaha said that every night he watches at least two or three porn movies. But this is not the story of just one child. According to Childhood Enhancement Through Training and Action (CHETNA), hundreds of children have admitted spending more money on watching pornography and playing video games.  Take 13-year-old Ankit for example. He was introduced to the world of adult films at the age of 10 by a boy who was two years his senior. ‘My friend introduced me to this; now once a week I watch porn clips. For downloading the clips to our mobile phone, we have to spend around Rs 80. For us, food is not so important,’ Ankit said.

The capital’s homeless are roughly estimated to be around 1,50,000, of whom 50,000 are children, according to social activists. Usha Justa, a volunteer with CHETNA, said innumerable tea shops turn into porn parlours at night. ‘They loot money from these kids. They show them hardcore porn. These children get totally addicted to it,’ she said. ‘Such activities happen under the very nose of the police,’ she added. Most of the children said policemen are bribed to look the other way. ‘The policemen don’t disturb us. They know what we are doing. But as they get money from the owner, they don’t bother us,’ said another teenager, who refused to identify himself.

Justa also said that apart from watching extreme pornography, the children also spend money on video games. Busy chasing a blue car on the screen, 14-year-old Aman said, ‘Life on the streets is better than the one I had at home. I ran away as my stepfather used to beat me.’ ‘What we earn, we spend,’ added his friend Rupesh, 15. ‘It is also better to spend whatever we earn in a day. Older boys or men sometimes rob us,’ he added.

Both of them grudgingly accepted that they are vulnerable on the mean and dangerous streets of the national capital. ‘Yes, it is true it is an unpredictable life. But here no one can tell us what to do or what not to do. We live life on our own terms,’ said Rupesh, who ran away from home as he was nagged by his parents to study. IANS
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