The gang rape at the abandoned Shakti Mills in Mahalaxmi has thrown the spotlight on other unguarded derelict structures that are being used by elements on the shadowy fringes of society. MiD DAY discovered that the hollowed out, creaky godowns of the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) close to Cotton Green railway station have been taken over by eunuchs to run prostitution lairs. Moreover, a walk through the deserted premises may be an invitation for robberies, local said.
According to locals, eunuchs have been using these premises for the last few months. They solicit customers and bring them to the defunct godowns through holes punched in their crumbling brick walls. Entry to these godowns was sealed six months ago by the engineering department of MbPT, and notices pasted on walls warning entrants of the structures being dilapidated.
When MiD DAY visited the location on Tuesday afternoon, a few transgenders were spotted outside one such godown (L70) close to the truck terminal. Wearing heavy make-up, many were seen soliciting potential customers. According to workers at private godowns at the location, the eunuchs come to the spot daily. “We have warned them against coming to our godowns. They take their customers inside the abandoned godowns and come out after a few hours. We heard they charge anywhere over Rs 100. Also, they ensure that the customers use condoms, which they provide once inside the godown,” said a loader at a private godown.
Dyandeo Shankar, who has been working as a loader for the past decade, said, “The eunuchs conduct their business throughout the day, but it picks up after the entire place empties out after 6 pm. They have knocked holes in some godown walls so they can sneak in and out.”
MiD DAY found two openings on the front and back of more than one godown on the stretch. Locals speculated that the openings were entry and escape routes, in case of a raid. On closer inspection of the spot, we saw hundreds of used condoms strewn on the floor along with gutkha packets.
Shankar said that during heavy rainfall the godowns get flooded and the condoms are flushed outside the premises. Another loader hinted that the authorities are in the know but choose to stay mum. “The MbPT staff and the local police are aware of the eunuchs running prostitution rings, but they are easily
managed,” he said.
According to locals, most of the MbPT godowns were storerooms for cottons used in textile mills but after the mills shut down in the 80s, they fell into disuse, turning into hangouts for anti-social elements and drug addicts.
Vijaykumar Shendge, superintendent at NSD Industrial Home which runs a vocational training institute for the blind and is close to the godowns, said, “Eunuchs around Reay Road railway station accost and rob people who happen to walk through the deserted godown lanes in evening. They don’t stay here, they come in the morning and leave late at night.”
Chief Security Officer of MbPT RR Mane said, “The said godowns do not come under my jurisdiction. I am concerned of security of only the import and export containers” S G Shenoy, chief public relations officer for the port trust, said succintly, “The godowns come under the Estate Manager’s office.” Officials from Estate Manager’s office informed MiD DAY that at one time they had around 178 godowns on the stretch, close to Cotton Green, but some mills were leased out to private parties and other, rickety ones were razed. “We had only recently sealed the entry points to the godowns with the help of our civil engineering department and notices were put up, informing public of the condition of the godown,” point out an officer. Sunil Kumar KE, Assistant Estate Manger, said, “I am not aware of the godowns being used for flesh trade by eunuchs. I will get the claims verified and bring this matter to the notice of our engineering department and security officials to intensify regular patrolling.”
Meanwhile, the additional commissioner of police (central region), Praveen Salunkhe, said, “I will immediately instruct the local police station to write to the owners of the godowns and take appropriate action. Also, local police would be directed to take necessary action immediately.” Locals maintain that though the mobile police van of Kalachowkie police patrols the area regularly, the eunuchs run to nearby bushes or hole up at godowns when they spot it.
Photos: Suresh KK and Datta Kumbhar