‘It’s time we talk about this unholy practice’

‘It’s time we talk about this unholy practice’

Child trafficking in YadadriShambhu.j

There is anger and anguish about the child sex racket in the famous temple street in Yadadri. People in this small town are aware that prostitution is prevalent here for ages but most of them prefer to overlook it as a bad practice followed by a few visitors. However, the August 2 raids and the closure of certain houses in the three major red-light areas confirm that the unholy practice is still widespread in the temple town. And this has come at a time when the government is pumping crores of rupees to develop the temple, on the lines of Tirumala in Tirupati.

Mohammad Ismail runs a photo-frame shop very close to the temple walkway. “I am born and brought up here. I have been running this shop for the past 40 years. I never heard anything like this, as prostitution was only limited to a particular community. But things have changed now, there were police raids and many media persons came here. I hope it ends there,” he said. Suresh Akula runs a bangle store and has two girl children. “I feel sorry for those children. But I also feel ashamed for not having knowledge of such a major thing happening right under my very nose. People here generally won’t talk much about it. Maybe, it’s time we talk about this unholy practice,” Suresh said, adding that policing has to be strengthened along with the development of the temple.

P Dasaratha who runs a barber shop near Ganesh Nagar attributed the malady to poverty. “In the absence of employment opportunities, youth get attracted to this sex business, and eventually, either become victims or abusers. We feel ashamed to face queries on this. I hope the state government will work towards wiping out the unholy business from this holy town.”

L Santosh, who runs a small medical shop, says that no one ever came for any such medicine like hormones. “We are surprised to know that a local doctor was involved in the illegal activity,” he said.

Telangana Home Minister Nayani Narasimha Reddy said that the Telangana government will deal firmly with human trafficking. “Whether it is the Yadadri case or child labour cases across the state, I have directed the police to initiate stern action. The Yadadri case is progressing fast and several men and women have been booked under the Preventive Detention Act (PD Act) to ensure that such incidents do not recur. Under operation Muskaan, the child labourers have been rescued and rehabilitated,” he said.

Mahesh Muralidhar Bhagwat, currently Rachakonda Police Commissioner, has been recognised for his tireless efforts to curb human trafficking. He said that the police are hoping to nail the culprits in the Yadadri child sex racket case with the help of scientific investigation. “With the support from other government agencies, we are confident that we will take the investigation to its logical conclusion.” He said that the DNA fingerprinting of blood samples will help frame cases against the perpetrators and unite the children with their rightful parents.

Bhagawat said that after the initial euphoria of bursting the racket had died down, a few even tried to tarnish the image of the police. “Those who were lobbying for the sex workers wanted us to slow down a bit,” he said. He had facilitated rehabilitation of 90% of the women in Dommara community involved in flesh trade during his tenure here in 2005-06.

“It is mandatory to report any child abuse that one might notice, under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. If a citizen fails to report a known case of child abuse or neglect, she or he is liable to punishment of imprisonment for up to six months, or a fine, or both. The public can call the child helpline, 1098, to report the incidents,” said Swati Lakra, additional commissioner of Hyderabad Police. The child helpline receives six to seven calls per day, and one such call actually saved the innocent girls of Yadadri. “The calls can be on household abuse, begging, child labour, missing children and child marriages, or sexual abuse. Whenever we take up operation Muskaan, the number of calls generally increases,” she said. In child abuse cases, Swati said, the perpetrators are known to the family and the children (victims) hesitate to complain it to their parents. She felt that teachers can fill the gap by listening to their students and should not overlook when they talk about sexual abuse.

POW (Progressive Organisation for Women) President Sandhya said that the police are harassing innocent women in the name of prostitution. “The police are letting the kingpins in the case free and the state government has failed to curb prostitution. It is the result of exploitation, and the lack of education and employment opportunities,” she pointed out.

M Ratnamala, a member of Revolutionary Writers Association, deplored the state of affairs in the state. “There is no security for women and children in the state. Police are harassing the hapless women involved in flesh trade. What they need is empathy and a way out of the miserable life,” she pointed out. “At least five of those arrested by Rachakonda police recently were accused of involvement in similar crimes earlier,” she said adding that the culprits were known to the police and action came only under pressure.

Kolli Madhavi, BJP spokesperson in Telangana, demanded the state government to respond about the trafficking of minor children. “The incident happened in August and I have been waiting for the state Women and Children Welfare Minister, Tummala Nageswara Rao, to react. It has been nearly three months now and I have not seen any progress in the case,” she said. The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) Advisory Committee Chairman M Ramachandra Reddy and CARA member, Gundlapally Sreenu, have written to Thummala Nageswara Rao, requesting constitution of a Child Welfare Committee in all districts and for constitution of a state commission for protection of child rights.