Hyderabad: Those running prostitution rackets keep throwing up new challenges for the police. What was noticed in 2017 was them changing tack from running brothels from rented property for a few months to sending escorts to residences/farm houses of customers by cab. Malkajgiri special operations team (SOT) inspector G. Naveen Kumar said, “The racket organisers put up advertisements on online platform Locanto with semi-nude pictures of escorts. When a customer calls them up, he is asked to pay 50 per cent of the charge to get a contact number of an ‘escort’ to chat up with on WhatsApp. After a time and date is fixed, the pimp and the escort drive to the place in a cab.”
Advertisements on these online platforms openly welcome customers with numbers, pictures and services they can choose from —ranging from ‘men seeking women’ to ‘women seeking men’ to ‘casual encounters’. Frequent crackdowns earlier this year led the organisers be more discreet. “The gangs started using other methods to deal with clients. Once a customer dials the phone numbers mentioned online, an agent asks him which hotel or lodge he is staying in, and then checks with the hotel reception to confirm. He then calls the customer to give the details of the escort and the charges,” said a senior official from the Task Force team. Organisers also ‘share’ the escorts with their counterparts in other states for a week or a month.
One aspect which misses the eye is that the escorts, who actually are victims, are very vulnerable to danger, said North Zone DCP B. Sumathi. “The girl is dropped off to the place by men and her safety is at risk. She can be assaulted against her wish and even get killed. Such an incident would obviously be hushed up and not reported by the racketeers.” City police officials say that phone numbers listed on the ads are often registered on the names of dead people with SIM cards bought with fake identity papers. A large number of sex workers belong to Kolkata and Mumbai, police said.
The latest modus operandi currently is using the guise of providing massage services at home. SOT officials of LB Nagar arrested one Pendam Sravan, 28, owner of Diamond Family Saloon, for secretly running a prostitution racket under the guise of home service for males. “Sravan uploaded pictures of massage girls working in his saloon on a website and contacted customers for services. He personally took the women to the customer’s place,” said LB Nagar SOT inspector P. Venkateswarlu. According to police’s annual report, there were 82 cases in Rachakonda Commissionerate alone, in which 106 racket organisers were held and 151 victims belonging to Telangana, AP, Jharkhand, UP were rescued. As many as 31 brothels were raided.
Dec. 17: High-profile prostitution racket at Taj Deccan hotel in Jubilee Hills and rescued two women from the film background. The police also caught two men, including a casting director, for forcing the actress into prostitution.
Sept. 20: SOT police rescued a Bangladeshi woman from two men and seized her Aadhar card from them.
Aug. 3: Madhapur police raided an apartment and arrested a couple from Mumbai for helping two organisers run a brothel and rescued two women.
Oct. 3: SOT officials of Malkajgiri apprehended three Tanzanians for human trafficking via Locanto in a decoy operation.
Spas, massage parlours doubled up as brothels
Well-known hotels, spas and massage parlours turned out to be primary hubs for prostitution this year. Star hotels were the preferred choice of the affluent clientele, said Dr Sunitha Krishnan, a social activist and co-founder of ‘Prajwala’. She said the law says that one can make these places accountable as their premises were being used for the commission of an offence, whether it is a hotel, lodge or an apartment. It can be sealed, but this never happens.
In August, SOT raids on spas in Madhapur unearthed a flesh trade racket running under a camouflage of massage parlours in the commercial and residential areas and the kingpin, Dasari Siddhartha, who runs the racket by procuring women from Thailand, was held.
“He gets teenage girls from Thailand through a one Kake, native of Thailand, with whom he developed acquaintance in Mumbai. She gets girls from Thailand under the guise of employment in massage centres for a monthly payment. Once the girls reach city, he takes possession of their passports and engages them in spas and massage parlours run by him for prostitution and other sexual services,” said Mr M. Gangadhar, inspector of SOT, Madhapur, adding.
“Most of these parlours are active prostitution rings operating from the premises or were offering services of a sexual nature. The owners are found to be flushing and throwing condoms outside. They were collecting as much as Rs 9,000 from individual customers though cost of the most expensive package is not more than Rs 6,000. The spa collects Rs 1 lakh for permanent membership and many of them have about 500 members. As per the licencing norms, they should have transparent glass doors without any latch, CCTV cameras, a register of customers. But the spas have failed to comply. Thai girls came on business/tourist visa but are working here,” the official.