As notes turn into trash, business vanishes from the red light area of Kolkata

There is no question of credit and we don’t want online transfers as family members of customers may get to know about these transactions, a few sex workers told HT.

kolkata Updated: Nov 11, 2016 10:41 IST
Sex workers,Sonagachi,Red light area
Sex workers are among the hardest hit as the business depends only on cash and they can’t offer service on credit.(File Photo)

Cash was once showered on them. Now, after the surgical strikes on Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, the rooms in Sonagachi, one of the country’s largest red light area are deserted.

The last time Sonagachi was deserted was in December 1992 when the then Left Front government had to impose curfew in the wake of Babri Mosque demolition.

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“I don’t remember such dull days. We had seen a similar situation after the Babri Masjid was demolished. However, then locals hopped in for a swinging time,” said Lata, a 60 year old sex worker turned house owner in Sonagachi.

But this time even locals have vanished.

The streets and lanes of Sonagachi that are always teeming with people after sundown, wears a deserted look throughout the day since the currency crisis. (HT Photo)

“We are asking sex workers to ask their clients to use online fund transfer or transfer money using their cell phones. This especially for grade A sex workers who charge Rs 3,000 upwards for around 30 minutes of intimacy,” said Kajal Bose, secretary Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), the largest community based organisation working in the area.

The lanes and bylanes of Sonagachi wore a deserted look. Trouble started on Tuesday night as sex workers refused to accept Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. On Wednesday, clients suddenly disappeared, apart from a few people who are regulars in local hooch dens.

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According to DMSC, there are around 11,000 sex workers in Sonagachi out of which 4,000 are grade A. However, local sources estimate the number of sex workers in the area to be around 20,000. Grade B sex workers who charge around Rs 500 per client are the worst sufferers.

“It is a helpless situation. It is impossible to ask our clients for online money transfer, because it can be traced. What if his wives or family members get to know? We work on high valued loose cash and there is no credit system here. I turned away clients since Tuesday night since all of them had Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes,” said Rekha, one of the grade A sex workers.

Most sex workers don’t have bank accounts and deal with large amount of loose cash in high denominations.

Read: Stunned over new Rs 1,000 rule woman dies of shock outside bank in Gorakhpur

The singing bars in and around Kolkata, Howrah and North 24-Parganas, too, wore a deserted look since Tuesday night. The bars which are generally dependent on loose cash and large denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1000, hardly got any customers.

“Generally singing bars depend on loose cash. Customers shower money on girls who sing and sway with the music. Sometimes customers change Rs 1000 to Rs 100 notes from us. After we stopped accepting Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes we have few clients,” said Ratan Dey (name changed), band master at a singing bar near Dum Dum.

First Published: Nov 11, 2016 10:41 IST