“At least 35% of young boys, between the age group of 14-18 years, have tasted alcohol at least once and 15% of girls in the same group too have been found to be drinking,” Sandeep Bansal, a speaker, began with sharing some data regarding the alcohol abuse in Punjab, while addressing students of DAV Public School. A software engineer by profession and a social activist by passion, Sandeep and his team of six, like-minded colleagues, are on a tour of Amritsar, covering schools, conducting seminars on underage drinking.
“These figures are approximate account for Punjab while nationwide, they are more staggering. 70% of young boys consume alcohol before they turn 18 and 66% girls do the same. And the biggest problem is that their parents, especially fathers, are their biggest triggers,” he said. Addressing the students of Class IX at the school, Sandeep says that it is important that they are informed about the dangers related to underage driving including the effects on their growth.
It was two years ago that Sandeep decided to spend two months every year on educating and creating awareness on the issue. Taking a break from work, he and his team, all from the high paying software industry, travel to small towns and cities, educating children about the ill-effects of underage drinking. His trigger, he says, was rather a shocking one. “I had gone to visit an ailing teacher at the hospital and I came across a 14-year-old girl, who was under treatment for alcohol addiction and cancer. Her mother used to give her small quantities of alcohol since the age of three years. Why? Because parents, who were into high paying professions, had to take time off from their kids every now and then. Whenever they did, they used to feed them alcohol to make them sleep,” he said
.More shocking were the figures after they started visiting schools, talking about the issue and researching on it. “It is still a taboo to talk about a child drinking in our society. Parents need to wake up and realise that their kids are their priority,” he says.