02 July 2010
By Vijay Chavan
Cases of socks being stolen from footwear kept outside temples on the rise. Police, doctors, activists say addicts douse the socks with correction ink to get an instant high
Cases of footwear getting stolen from temples have been happening for donkey’s years. But the Hadapsar and Swargate police have been witnessing a new trend. The footwear outside temples in these areas remains untouched, only the socks disappear.
Last month, three minor boys held for gangraping and assaulting a minor girl at Ramtekdi were found to be addicted to correction ink or whitener and their mode of abuse was by using socks.
Moreover, what has rendered the cops helpless is the fact that the whitener is not covered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Prevention) Act, 1985. The police are reportedly consulting experts in this regard. Social activists want bottles of whiteners to be banned from stationery shops as these shops are usually located near educational institutions. They say making whiteners available in the form of a pen would help prevent their abuse.
Satish Gosavi, secretary, Ramtekdi temple, said, "During rush hours, especially on Sundays and other holidays, we get many complaints of socks being stolen. Though it’s a seemingly petty issue, we have deployed a security guard and appealed to people to remove their footwear on the shoe stand. Since it’s a small issue, we have not officially approached the police. It was only when an anti–addiction activist approached us that we came to know why such thefts take place."
Prasad Oak, counsellor, Anandvan Vyasanmukti Kendra, said, "Whiteners contain organic solvents, and they are used to erase errors on hand–written or printed papers. The 15–ml bottles of whitener are available at shops for Rs 10–30. During our surveys, we found that most addicts are aged between nine and 18 years. And it’s mostly school boys, child labourers and slumdwellers."
He added, "Whiteners don’t come under the purview of NDPS Act. It is more popular amongst the teenagers as it has no odour and so it’s difficult to detect. Its sales have shot up in some parts of the city with five–six bottles being purchased in a day. Children from middle and lower middle classes tend to be the customers. Many juvenile delinquents – about 40 per cent of the lot – are found to be addicted to whiteners." Oak said, "Earlier, pain balms and iodex were in demand by addicts. But after instructions were issued to chemists, the demand for these substances has reduced."
He said, "Whiteners are too strong to be inhaled directly. So addicts pour it onto some cloth and use it as an inhaler, which gives them a high for four to 10 hours. Recently, it has been found that addicts have been stealing socks of devotees from temples. They use these socks along with the whitener to get a high. Many ingest the whitener too."
About remedial measures, Oak said, "Whiteners should be brought under the purview of the NDPS Act. Also, they can be sold as pens instead of packaging them in bottles."
What The Shrink Says
Dr Sadashiv Gadekar, a psychologist, said, "Children have easy access to whiteners. The chemicals in liquid whiteners have the same capability to intoxicate the brain as other drugs. Whitener is poured on a cloth and sniffed. It contains toluene, which gives the users a dizzy feeling and a hangover too. But it does not leave behind any odour or other indications. An overdose can result in respiratory blockage, cardiac arrest and death. It can also lead to cancer, loss of concentration and slurring of speech."
Taking Help From Experts: Cops
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Anti–Narcotics Cell) Rajendra Dahale said, "It is a matter of concern that a lot of minors are getting addicted to whiteners, which are easily available in stationery stores. We are helpless as the substance is not covered under NDPS Act. To tackle this menace, we are seeking help from experts."
He added, "Senior police officers discussed the issue in a meeting held recently. We have sought the opinion of our team of legal experts on the issue. We have also issued letters to many shops in Wanowrie, Hadapsar and Swargate, asking them to sell whiteners only to students or office–goers."
- Easily available at any stationery shop for Rs 10–30 for 15 ml bottle. So, most of its users are aged between 9 and 18 years, with most of them be–ing school students, child labourers and slum dwellers. Stationery shops are typically located close to schools and colleges
- Whitener contains volatile organic compounds, which helps it to thicken and makes the surface easy to write upon. It is said to contain toluene, which is carcinogenic
- Formerly known as toluol, toluene is a clear, water–insoluble liquid with the typical smell of a paint thinner. Chemically, it is a mono–substituted benzene derivative, an aromatic hyadrocarbon that is widely used as an industrial feedstock and solvent
Consumption and abuse
- Its consumption can’t be detected as it does not give out any odour.
- Whitener abuse doesn’t fall under the purview of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Prevention) Act, 1985, rendering the police helpless in controlling the menace
- The effect of whiteners is apparently very strong when it’s inhaled directly.That’s why addicts prefer dipping a cloth – used socks being the latest trend due to their thickness and odour – into the whitener before sniffing it
Loss of concentration,
slurring of speech
Respiratory blockage Cardiac arrest,
leading to sudden death Cancer