Bagging in Kathmandu

Kathmandu is home to a group of children, some as young as 5, who have more freedom than even the most liberally parented and streetwise European children. However, careless of their future, their freedom is also their incarceration.

Many of Kathmandu's street children escape to the city from rural areas with the prospect that the city offers them a better opportunity, giving them independence and ultimately a better life. The reality rarely matches expectation, as many of them end up hungry, begging, glue-sniffing and involved in petty crime. Nevertheless they are at least escaping child labour, overly zealous recruitment tactics of a Maoist insurgency in rural areas, or physical abuse from alcoholic and unemployed fathers.

To earn money for food most children do what is known as 'rag picking'; picking their way through rubbish dumps early in the morning or very late in the evening to collect plastic bags to sell to recycling companies. They also use smaller plastic bags to inhale glue. This method of glue sniffing is called 'bagging' and is used as a way to cope with hunger, cold, mental and physical pains and is obligatory for social bonding.