Kamathipura was initially known as Lal Bazaar. It got its name from the Kamathis (workers) of other areas of the country, who were labourers on construction sites. All pics/mid-day photographers
In the late 1990s, there was a tough crackdown by police. Infact there were also rise in cases of AIDS. The government's redevelopment policy helped sex workers to move out of the profession and subsequently out of Kamathipura.
In 1992, Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) recorded there were 50,000 sex workers here which was reduced to 1,600 in 2009
In the 1980s and 90s, the Mumbai police had the practice of raiding brothels when there was information about someone forced into sex trade, or if there were incidents of under-age girls being dragged into the business.
In 2006, four or five lanes were dominated by sex workers. Now, only 2 lanes are in business.
In the heart of Lamington Road, a five-minute drive from Kamathipura, what was once a 'social club' on the first floor of a residential building, was in 2013 converted into a lodging house, where women can rent out beds through the day.
NGO's have played a very prominent role in generating awareness on HIV/AIDS through the assistance provided in providing free literature and organizing street campaigns.
Kamathipura, which found its first settlers in the 1700s among the Kamathis or construction labourers from Telangana, who had arrived to help construct the various causeways is on the brink of rebranding. The only reminder of its past will be the pin code, 400008.
Today, it is said that there are so many brothels in the area that there is no space for the sex workers to sit. They hang around in the streets, solicit customers, and then rent an available bed. The 3,000-odd buildings in the area are largely dilapidated and in urgent need of repairs.