Reported by Tapas Das and Bibhuti Sahu
Bhubaneswar, May 16:
Prostitution is not about dingy, poorly lit shanties after dark in the Odisha capital anymore. It happens right in the heart of Bhubaneswar in broad daylight in the full view of the public and full knowledge of the police. It is as if the so-called Red Light area has moved into the Steer Light area.
After a series of exposes on the flesh trade in the city flourishing in clubs, hotels, spas, parlours and rented houses in posh localities, we stumbled on open, uninhibited, in-your-face soliciting at the busy Rajmahal square in broad daylight. Here is how it happened.
Acting on reliable leads, we reached the Rajmahal square at about noon on May 11.
After a wait of an hour and half, we saw a middle-aged woman coming to the government quarters on the backside of Unit-II auto rickshaw stand. A little while later, seven-eight girls and women joined her. Within minutes, they were inviting passersby vocally using body language to telling effect.
A couple of them went on to expose themselves partially near a busy street to lure targeted customers. We managed to click them in action while keeping ourselves incognito.
Soon enough, they were in business. We saw many men of varied age groups stopping by them. While some were young, many were middle-aged. Once the rates were finalized, they used to take them out on their motorbikes or in hired auto rickshaws.
A few of them were still stationed there at 4:30 PM when a Bullet riding local cop arrived on the spot. They spoke for a short while following which the prostitutes left the place.
We revisited the spot two days later on Wednesday to make sure what we had seen on Monday was not a one-off affair. But we found that things were very much the same. We noticed an elderly man picking up a middle-aged hooker. We noticed the rest sitting in the same place inviting, exposing and luring customers.
Significantly, we also noticed a patrolling police van stationed there and the flesh trade happening right in their presence. No one made any noise. The commission from the trade must have been good for the cops!
We clicked pictures and tried to enquire further from the locals.
We found out that these girls and women are not only involved in prostitution; they are also into stealing and wallet snatching. They have a track record of manhandling customers if the rates don’t work out. Customers usually don’t discuss this with anyone or report such incidents to the cops to avoid the shame and trouble.
The tip-happy cops don’t bother to take precautionary measure either. “Do they have ‘prostitute’ written on their face?” is the usual rebuttal of police when locals call them up to get rid of the hookers.