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Goa-based internet hooking sites are in doldrums as demonetisation takes a toll in this seedy business of online prostitution. The dodgy virtual space is hit by the central government’s recent decision to scrap Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 denomination as legal tender. Speaking to The Indian Express, a person representing as a point of contact with an independent escort agency identifying himself with this screen name as ‘Katappa26’, said that cash-crunch has severely hit the prostitution solicitation services.
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According to Katappa26 – the range of services offered by the escort service providers are priced from Rs. 5,000 and upwards to Rs. 60,000. During the tourist season from October to March the price further surges up to a lakh per day basis. “There is absolute necessity of Rs 500 or Rs 1000 denomination. But these days the customers don’t seem to have sufficient new denomination. They try to dump old currency on us and we are in a fix,” Katappa26 said.
Katappa26 says though some escort service providers to attract customers claim that they accept ‘old currencies’, but they won’t accept it as the entire amount. “The business is not legitimate, how will we exchange the currencies in the bank. How will we justify the source of income or the business. Moreover, if we stand in the long queue, who will operate business,” he said.
Katappa26- who says he draws his pseudo name from the 2015 popular multilingual film Bahubali say’s that the online service provider accept only cash for the mode of transaction. Besides ’26’, he also has several other pseudo online identities like Katappa21, Katappa21 and Katappa25. “The question of cheque or debit/credit transaction does not arise as there are lot of bank formalities and most of the ‘front’ business (massage parlours) are raided and sealed by the police due to the local and media pressure,” he added.
Another customer soliciting agent called Vijay with a different escort agency says nearly 90 per cent of escort request originate from domestic tourists and most of the clients prefer tourist hotspot destination in North Goa such as Calangute, Baga, Anjuna and Candolim. Vijay says that the sudden dip in the escort request is on par with the drop in the tourist arrival since November 8 after the currency demonetisation.
Despite the enforcement and the punishments in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, as per the search engine result nearly 100 websites claim to operate ‘independent’ escort services in Goa, this apart from social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Whatsapp messenger service and classified aggregators such as locanto and craigslist.
Speaking to The Indian Express DGP Muktesh Chander says, that demonetisation effect against online escort services aside – the police department is focused on destabilising the front business entity of the off-street prostitution service. “If anyone explicitly offers such service online we conduct decoy operations and arrest the suspects and contact the internet service provider to discontinue their services,” Muktesh said.