In the flesh: Cops turn blind eye to sex trade

age correspondent

India, Crime

It’s the perfect crime as no potential client dares to approach the police. The money collected ranges from Rs 400 to Rs 700, say locals.

Clients follow the sex worker of their choice and meet away from the original spot. Crowded areas like shopping complexes are used to strike deals.

The rhythmic clapping of transgenders is unmistakable even in the din of the  crowded and noisy Majestic. It's 2.30 on a cloudy afternoon in the area, where prostitutes are known to solicit customers even in broad daylight. Obavva Pade, an all-women police squ-ad, launched in May, has been touted as the answer to the daytime soliciting in the Majestic. But members of the squad are seen sitting and chatting together in a corner, seemingly oblivious to the soliciting of customers taking place around them.

At first glance, the groups of women huddled in street corners nearby, smiling and laughing, appear to be just friends  hanging out together, but the subtle leaning over and  whispering into the ears of  passing men give them away. It's clear that soliciting is under way, but it appears to escape  the notice of the squad. Another woman appears, her saree draped conservatively, and strolls towards a small shopping complex. As she pretends to do some window shopping,   a man comes in view. "Rs 500," she whispers. The man leaves without another word. This deal obviously didn't make it. But the woman doesn't have to wait too long. Five minutes later, another man, who has been watching from a distance and noting her conversation with the man who just left, takes his place. It’s hard to hear the conversation that transpires, but money changes hands and they part ways. The woman then walks towards  the bus stand  and flags an auto. As she jumps in , her client appears and gets in beside her. This deal was clearly successful.

A short distance away, her friends mill around the lounge for KIA commuters. Their laughter is interrupted by a phone call. One of the women speaks hurriedly into her phone and they all scatter quickly . Soon after they disperse, police sirens are heard. A tip-off that worked!

But if there are women who keep their side of the deal there are others, there to promise and scoot with the “advance” .  They are the notorious “ burkha gang” often found  near the Maharaja complex and Abhinay Talkies.  Like other women soliciting in the Majestic, they collect an advance, promising to meet their clients at a designated spot. Once they have the money, the women make a run for it, with no intention of “honouring” the deal. It’s the perfect crime as no potential client dares to approach the police. The money collected ranges from Rs 400 to Rs 700, say locals.  

And then there are the transgenders who also solicit men, many of whom  dread their approach. But while they can all be spotted without much of an effort, the Obavva Pade doesn’t seem to notice them.

Burqa gang lies in wait to con clients

Ask the police  about the rampant sex trade in the Majestic, and it says it cannot be stopped overnight. “We have been cracking down on them, but the women have their own timings of business,” said one officer. A member of the all-women police squad, Obavva Pade, claims it  cracks down on eve-teasers, drunks and those found loitering suspiciously in the area.  But a visit to the area reveals the squad members come to do the rounds  after 5 p.m. and having done them, sit comfortably at the Majestic Bus Stand, while the soliciting goes on surreptitiously around them.

The people too say the police have been informed several times about the burqa gang and the  transgenders operating in the area, but nothing has been done to stop them.    

Complains Mr Sridhar, a local resident, “You can’t step outside in the main market towards the evening as the entire burqa gang is there doing the rounds of the Majestic bus stand. They misbehave and at times even abuse you if they are checked.”

For Mr Ajith K Subramanya, taking a bus from the Majestic to Shivajinagar for work is a daily battle. “At times the women chase you  to earn some money,” he says.

A final year student, Manjunath of Banashankari complains that the transgenders sometimes throw themselves at men, which is very uncomfortable to deal with.