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By Roshni Chakrabarty and Arnab Mitra
Hiding behind their swanky ambiance, dance bars and massage parlors have become hot destinations for quite a few. NewsGram reporter for Kolkata, Arnab Mitra went to uncover bits and pieces on what happens behind those satin curtains and scented lounges.
Sao Massage Parlor, Salt Lake
Large banners in the vicinity of the Sao Massage Parlor in Salt Lake announced its existence. According to the banner, one could avail Chinese, ayurvedic and various other massages here.
Arnab made his way to the massage parlor which took two floors of a residential building in Karunamoyee, Saltlake. The person who runs the massage parlor is a resident of that very building.
As Arnab attempted to enter the place, he was greeted by 2-3 men who welcomed him with a catalogue. The prices ranged from 500 to 20,000 rupees for the various types of massages. Along with the name of each massage was the photo of the massage expert. All of these “massage experts” were women.
Arnab flicked through the catalogue and said he preferred to “order inside”.
The beautifully decorated massage parlor was marble floored and looked like every other swanky beauty parlor. Separate sections were allocated for the different services. Customers could avail cigarettes, alcohol or ganja as per their choice.
Arnab chose a nominal hair massage worth 500 rupees. The North-eastern woman who came to offer him her services was dressed in a mini skirt and a half sleeved shirt.
On hearing certain noises coming from the nearby room labeled for Ayurvedic massages, Arnab excused himself to go to the toilet which was situated right beside that room.
A grizzly sight inside the room met his eyes. Around 3-4 men were pulling the saree of a woman in the room.
The woman, who seemed to be her early 20s, was pleading with the men who were relentless.
“Tumko 20,000 rupiya diya gaya hai massage ke liya, ab toh jitna maza karna hai hum karenge, parlor mein ghusne se pehle hi yeh kaha gaya tha humse.” (We have offered you 20,000 for the massage, now we will have as much fun with you as we like. We were promised this even before we entered the parlor.)
As the girl kept trying to fend them off, one of the men burnt her arms and body repeatedly with the cigarette he held.
Surprisingly, all this was happening right in front of the owner of the parlor- a middle aged lady of a seemingly middle class family. The other women working there strangely seemed to be enjoying the situation as they taped the incident.
Were these men really customers? Or were they brought in for some other purpose? Is every customer allowed to treat the women in this manner?
Such questions sadly remain unanswered.
Arnab took out his phone and, on the pretext of listening to music, tried to covertly capture a video evidence of the incident. But his intentions were promptly discovered and despite playing the press card, his mobile was snatched away and the video deleted before he was shoved out of the parlor.
When Arnab went to the Bidhannagar Police to complain about the forceful snatching of phone and deletion of evidence, the police mocked him. “Apnara toh news kilogramey bikri koren.” (You sell news by the kilo.)
Soon after, Arnab was asked to leave the police station.
City Heart Bar & Restaurant, Barasat
When Arnab entered the City Heart Bar & Restaurant in Barasat at around nine at night, business was flourishing. High voltage Hindi numbers played while beautiful young women danced on the floor.
Alcohol poured and money flew as the touts made deals left and right on behalf of the women. Earnings are divided amongst each member of the establishment, including the touts and the manager, the NewsGram reporter learned.
As Arnab offered 100-150 bucks to one girl, a tout came and inquired whether he was looking for something special. On a deal of Rs 5,000, Arnab was taken to the girl he had offered money to.
On meeting him, the girl took him by the hand and led him to a room right beside the dance floor, where she proceeded to take off her saree.
Arnab stopped her saying he had come from an organization which worked with sex workers and that he was just looking to speak to her regarding a few things.
After the initial hesitation, Tanisha(name changed) said she was in the profession willingly and that when she had applied for the job, everything had been explained to her clearly. “I am the sole bread earner for my family. I have to look after my parents and other family members as well. This profession helps me earn enough for that.”
She added that a dance performance would only help her earn around Rs 200-300 per day and it varied according to the time and customer. They had no fixed salary. “So, we have to choose the other path to ensure we have enough food in our stomach.”
The tout came and asked what was wrong and whether the girl had refused him. When he started to shout at the girl, Arnab quickly stepped in to clear the confusion.
Citing a family emergency, he paid Rs 500 and left.
Here is a video that Arnab took at the City Heart Bar & Restaurant:
What is the problem?
Unlike red light areas which undergo regular surveillance, these dance bars and massage parlors have no proper system to monitor them. As a result, anyone can do anything in these establishments. One can easily avail marijuana, cocaine and other drugs as well as indulge in various illegal under-the-table give and take activities in such places.
Establishments such as these are on the rise. In suburban areas such as Rajarhat and Salt Lake, a dance bar or such massage parlors be found at distances even less than 2km of each other.
Many of these massage parlors are situated in residential areas which give them adequate cover. Residents are worried about the safety of young women as areas in the vicinity of such establishments lose any semblance of decency after sundown. Young women are called names and harassed with obscene gestures.
“It becomes impossible for us to step out after 11 at night,” said Saltlake resident Amal Ganguly. These new businesses act as a deterrent to normal life of the public. “Drunken brawls, problems created by biker gangs and the damage of property are daily issues. The situation gets even more aggravated on weekends!” Ganguly added.
Residents allege that complaints to police, councilors and administration fall on deaf ears and they are only assured with promises of “will see to it”, but no action is taken.
An incident in Haridevpur around a month ago saw an innocent civilian in his early 30s shot to death in a gang war which started off in a dance bar. Kolaghat also saw a similar incident on Navami night where another civilian got killed.
The government needs to pay attention to these establishments and ensure a system which can monitor them regularly to avoid any grim incidents and criminal activities. Moreover, care should be taken that such businesses are kept separate from residential areas which might otherwise prove to be a problem for other civilians and destroy the natural environment of the area.
Arnab Mitra is a Kolkata based photojournalist and reporter for NewsGram.
NEW DELHI - India Navy sending four ships for exercises and port visits with the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia to strengthen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, its navy said Wednesday, as China's maritime power grows in the area.
The Indian ships will spend more than two months in the region, the navy said in a statement.
Commander Vivek Madhwal, the Indian navy spokesman, said four ships will take part.
The ships will also participate in a multilateral exercise, MALABAR-21, along with the Japanese, Australian and U.S. navies, the statement said.
It said the exercises will enhance coordination with friendly countries, based on common maritime interests and a commitment to freedom of navigation.
"Besides regular port calls, the task group will operate in conjunction with friendly navies to build military relations and develop interoperability in the conduct of maritime operations," the statement said.
The U.S., India, Japan and Australia are part of the Quad regional alliance created in response to China's growing economic and military strength. Washington has long viewed New Delhi as a key partner in efforts to blunt increasing Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
India is also in a continuing standoff with China over their disputed border in the eastern Ladakh region. The countries have stationed tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along their de facto border, called the Line of Actual Control.
Last year, 20 Indian troops died in a clash with Chinese soldiers involving clubs, stones and fists in a portion of the disputed border. China said it lost four soldiers.(VOA/HP)
The UK government on Thursday announced that it will move India from the red to the amber list on Sunday, in the country's latest update to the 'Red-Amber-Green' traffic light ratings for arrivals into England amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This means the visit visas for the UK from India are open, in addition to other long-term visas that have remained open. But travellers from India arriving in England can complete a 10-day quarantine at home or in the place they are staying (not mandatorily quarantine in a managed hotel).
The UK government also announced that arrivals from France to England will no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. The step aligns France with the rest of the amber list now that the proportion of beta variant cases has fallen, where those who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorised and administered in the UK, the US or Europe do not need to quarantine when arriving in England.
This move also simplifies the system to three categories, as well as the green watch list to give travellers notice where green status is at risk.
To continue cautiously reopening international travel, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added to the government's green list, having demonstrated they posed a low risk to UK public health.
Besides India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE will also be moved from the red to the amber list, as the situation in these countries has improved.
The data for all countries will be kept under review and the government will not hesitate to take action where a country's epidemiological picture changes, a statement by the UK government said.
Following an assessment of the latest data, Georgia, La Reunion, Mayotte and Mexico will be added to the red list as they present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern, known high-risk variants under investigation or as a result of very high in-country or territory prevalence of Covid-19.
Arrivals from Spain and all its islands are advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible, as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we've made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world.
"While we must continue to be cautious, today's changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public."
Since February, anyone who arrives in the UK from a red list country has been required by law to book a stay in a managed quarantine facility for 10 days.
In order to ensure taxpayers are not subsidising the costs of staying in these facilities, which have gone up, the cost will increase from August 12. Alternative payment arrangements remain available to those who genuinely cannot afford to pay and rates remain the same for children up to 12.(IANS/HP)
A Hindu temple in Pakistan's Punjab province was reportedly vandalized by hundreds of people after a nine-year-old Hindu boy, who allegedly urinated at a local seminary, received bail, a media report said on Thursday.
According to the Dawn news report, the incident took place on Wednesday in Bhong town, about 60 km from Rahim Yar Khan city.
Besides the vandalization, the mob also blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway (M-5), the report added.
Citing sources, Dawn news said that a case was registered against the minor on July 24 based on a complaint filed by a cleric, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim, of the Darul Uloom Arabia Taleemul Quran.
The sources said that "some Hindu elders did tender an apology to the seminary administration saying the accused was a minor and mentally challenged".
But, when a lower court granted him bail a few days ago, some people incited the public in the town on Wednesday and got all shops there closed in protest, the report quoted the sources as further saying.
A video clip showing people wielding clubs and rods storming the temple and smashing its glass doors, windows, lights, and damaging the ceiling fans went viral on social media.
In response, one Twitter user said: "Ganesh Temple, village Bhong in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab has been ravaged. Another day, another attack on Hindus in Pakistan."
Another said: "Yesterday, the mob ran amok at Temple over minor boy issue who allegedly urinated, the boy said to be mentally handicapped. Hindu community made an apology for the boy — a case registered against the nine-year-old boy. Those vandalized temples, no FIR registered against them."
District police spokesman Ahmed Nawaz Cheema said Rangers had been deployed in the troubled area and the situation was under control.
A small town close to the River Indus and Sindh-Punjab border, Bhong houses a number of gold traders who originally hail from Ghotki and Dehrki (Sindh), according to the Dawn news report.
A ruling PTI member representing the minority said he had been in touch with the local Hindu community and influential Rais family of Bhong since the issue surfaced.