A bizarre business in thriving at several parts of Uttar Pradesh came into light this week. Recharge outlets in the state are reportedly selling mobile numbers of unsuspecting girls for prices based on their looks and are being used by men to harass them over the phone. This bizarre matter came into light when several complaints of unwanted and harassing calls were reported by women on 1090, the women helpline number, in Uttar Pradesh.
According to reports, out of the 6 lakh-odd complaints registered with the helpline in the past four years, 90 percent are related to harassment of women on the phone.
A majority of the men who seek to entice women with the preferred opening line ‘humain aapse dosti karna hai’ or ‘I want to make friendship with you’ get the numbers from outlets where women go to recharge their mobile phones, Hindustan Times reports.
The recharge outlets save the numbers of girls and then pass them on to those willing to pay. While it can command as much as Rs 500 for number of someone considered ‘beautiful’, that of an “ordinary looking girl” fetches Rs 50.
According to police, the many of the harassers remain anonymous as the “recharge Bhaiya’ also helps to buy SIMs with fake IDs that he keeps in stacks at his store.
The harassers say they are “having some harmless fun”.
One youth, whose favourite recharge outlet is the one run by a father-son duo, says “We go there when the father is away.” He and his friends then use the numbers to strike friendships. “Sometimes we send vulgar pictures over WhatsApp,” Mohammed, a resident of Shahjahanpur was quoted by media.
For the time being, those manning the helpline usually let the men off by giving them a stern warning. Rajesh Pratap Yadav is one them who deals with around a 100 complains a day. “I call the men. There are all kinds of them: young, old, teenagers, rural, urban, working or unemployed. Some say ‘she is my girlfriend who has stopped talking to me; some say ‘I dialed the number by mistake”. But that’s little solace for the women at the receiving end. Criminal lawyers such as Avninder Singh feel that more stringent action is needed. “It’s a breach of trust. The woman has shared her phone number with the recharge person on the assumption of trust. If he sells her information, he is guilty of exchanging that privilege for economic advantage, a criminal offense punishable with as much as seven years in jail. He is also abetting phone stalking.”
(With inputs from HT and PTI)