With the six-month tourist season beginning, massage parlours, drug peddlers and agents catering to paedophiles have become active.
Sunil Rao, an IT professional from Mumbai, landed in Thiruvananthapuram a few weeks back. A climb of a few steps in the career ladder and another big hike in his pay packet took him to company’s work station at the IT Park in the city.
But for the big jump in the job, the Kerala city was his last choice to be a place to work in. A fun-loving and travel crazy, Sunil, a bachelor, is fish out of the water in the new location, where night life is almost unheard of.
His only solace is Kovalam. Though he had heard and read much about the “must visit” beach destination, he had never been in the promised land of the beach lovers. So on his next off day, he boarded the first bus to Kovalam, which is barely 20 km from the city.
The nature’s wonder awaited him there.
In the post-monsoon sunny days, the rain-washed Kovalam is an irresistible lure for travellers across the globe. Greenish-blue and almost calm waters, the undulating beach, small hillocks, towering coconut palms, vast expanse of blue sky dotted with patches of snowy white clouds make this Kerala beach a nature’s kaleidoscope. It unwinds any tense mind and body.
Sunil took a few lazy rounds on the beach which was yet to wake up from the previous night’s celebrations. The long row of encroached and ugly looking hotels and shops that mar the beauty of the beach were still in slumber. Some early birds, scantly clad white men and women were tanning their bodies on the beach either lost in books or gazing the morning sky.
From nowhere a middle-aged man accosted Sunil, offering the Kerala style ayurvedic massage. He claimed that ayurvedic massage is a panacea for modern life-style disease – from hypertension to infertility. When Sunil showed reluctance, the man hushed to him that he will take him to masseuses.
Fully aware of what was in store, Sunil followed him. The massage parlour was on the first floor of a two-storey building. A man in his fifties was the manager. Within no time, five girls, three were either from North East or Nepal, were paraded in front of him. The customer can select the girl whom he likes and has to pay Rs 2,000 for half-an-hour “massage”.
As Sunil did not like the place, he walked out. The agent took him to another place. Finally, at the fifth parlour he struck a deal.
“The girl did everything on my body except massage. The ambience everywhere was that of an average whorehouse in Mumbai or Delhi,” later he told his close friend.
With the beginning of the six-month season in October, massage parlours, drug peddlers and agents catering to paedophiles have become active after their long hibernation during the off-season period in Kovalam. Perhaps, the cocktail of sex and drug is gravitating the pleasure seekers to here from all parts of the world.
“At least 100 to 150 massage parlours are dot the beach. Barring a few, all are engaged in illegal activities giving not even a scant respect to the strict norms set by the government to ensure the fair practice at the parlours.
The authorities have enforced norms in the wake complaints from various quarters that the parlours were straying far off from their permitted business,” said Premachandran, who has been working as a guide at the beach for the past two decades. Under the norms, masseurs are permitted to massage only males and masseuses to females. But it is violated with impunity. Norms also prescribe that the massage should be done in the presence of a qualified ayurvedic practitioner.
“Massage is the new avatar of the old practice. Earlier, small girls brought from neighbouring states were pushed into flesh trade here. The business was codenamed “tender coconut”. The codename made canvassing easy,” said Premachandran.
Social activists and others came out against this and the government had to take strong action. Now this mode has been replaced with more safe and modern one. Not only young girls, but also teenaged boys are in the flesh trade here.
Premachandran said that Kovalam is a safe destination of paedophiles and it operates in a clandestine way. However, only the rich customers and whom the operators have confidence will be entertained. Migrant children form northern states, who are ubiquitous in the state, are victims of it.
Drugs, the other ingredient of success mantra for a tourist destination, are freely available in Kovalam. Form the ganja at the high lands of Idukki in Kerala, which is considered to be of best quality, to intravenously administered stuff are in a big demand during the season. “Ganja and similar stuff come from Kerala and northern states, while the chemical forms are smuggled from Bangalore and Mumbai,” Mathew Thomas, a manager at a hotel, said.
“Most hotels and resorts here hold rave parties catering to drug users. Here even life guards and guides are middlemen of the massage parlours and drug peddlers and they make some fast bucks from the business,” he said.
Since heavily bribed enforcement agencies do not act tough, sex and drug trade are thriving business here. It has made Kovalam a destination of pleasure seekers. And without sex and drug no destination in a developing country can survive, said the industry experts.
(All names changed )