Thousands of people throng to the pilgrim towns of Tirumala Tirupati every day. While most visitors seek divine blessings, there are apparently others looking for deliverance of a different kind.
According to R Chandravadan, director of the Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society (APSACS), Tirupati has emerged as a hotspot for commercial sex. Quoting a survey by an NGO, he said that as many 350 commercial sex workers operate in and around the temple town.
The survey also revealed that about 100-150 commercial sex workers, who are located at the base town of Tirupati, regularly travel to the hilltop town of Tirumala to ‘ply their trade’. They conducted their business “very discreetly” in certain secluded spots in the hills.
“Tirupati has become a big challenge for us. Along with the increased rush of pilgrims, there is a growing problem of commercial sex. Since it is a sensitive issue we are treading cautiously,” Chandravadan said at a press conference at Tirupati.
He said the APSACS would enlist the support of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) to control the problem. Besides increasing vigilance, TTD doctors and para-medical staff will be trained in AIDS control measures.
The TTD, however, had a different reaction to these revelations. Chief executive officer KV Ramanachary blamed the media for sensationalising an “isolated comment” made by the official. He said the temple administration would take appropriate action if such activity was going on.