MADURAI: The pandemic had wreaked havoc on the health care system; the successive lockdowns, announced by the government to tackle this dreaded virus caseload, had dented livelihood of lakhs of people. Images of labourers trudging thousands of kilometres back to their desolate homes are still vivid in public memory.
But closer home, the crisis inflicted upon vulnerable women a bruise so deep, but so completely shrouded in swathes of intrigue and foulplay, that it made them all pawns in the exploitative game played by chequered perverts.
The story of Selvi*, one such woman, who had been trapped into the sex trade, spurred Express to take the plunge to find out more about the modus operandi and help expose a system.
When on a warm July evening Shankar* called up an Express reporter, little did we know that the story that he had to share would put us on the trail to the underbelly of a hi-tech flesh trade racket thriving in Madurai.
A security guard, Shankar came into our contact earlier this year when we did a story on the plight of security guards in the wake of the lockdown.
Shankar’s daughter Selvi* had fallen prey to an organised racket that was coercing women into prostitution under the garb of offering them jobs.
Based on Shankar’s tip-off, our reporters delved deeper into the machinations of the gang to find out about their modus operandi.
What emerged was as disturbing as it was new. When it was brought to attention of city Police Commissioner, he assured a swift probe. A month on, the gang is still active, preying on the gullible women, luring them into flesh trade.
Invite to the like-minded
The advertisements cater to ‘like-minded’ people wishing to take part in group sex/wife swapping
After coming across one such advertisement, Express contacted over half a dozen advertisers
Advertisers conducted thorough background check before giving us their Telegram (chatting app) ID to discuss matter further
FLESH TRADE -II
The gang operates on two levels -- as recruiters and as facilitators. Communications are through sophisticated chat applications
The gang poses as recruiters and contacts job aspirants through local job portals
Their primary target are girls and women from poor families
A physical interview is arranged
Anonymous recruiters do a thorough check of financial and family background
Candidates are sent back with the promise of an assured job
The gang deputes a handler for the candidate
The handler makes the proposition; candidates are coaxed into accepting offer
The careful chat
The advertisers chat via self-destructing messages
The clients asked us to share their photos, both as individuals and as couples