Mo­bile num­bers of girls up for sale in Ut­tar Pradesh; price `50 to `500 240 in­fra projects hit as process to give green nod stalls in Maha PROJECTS AF­FECTED 240 75

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Snigdha Poonam let­ters@hin­dus­tan­ Manasi Phadke manasi.phadke@hin­dus­tan­

Mo­bile num­bers of un­sus­pect­ing girls are be­ing sold from recharge out­lets across Ut­tar Pradesh for prices based on their looks and are be­ing used by men to ha­rass them over the phone, po­lice say.

The thriv­ing racket has come to light af­ter a round-the-clock po­lice helpline, 1090, set up by chief min­is­ter Akhilesh Ya­dav was flooded with com­plaints from women about un­so­licited calls. Out of the 6 lakh-odd com­plaints regis­tered with the helpline in the past four years, 90% 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.

The un­scrupu­lous recharg­ers save the num­bers and then pass them on to those will­ing to pay. The num­ber of some­one con­sid­ered ‘beau­ti­ful’ can com­mand as much as `500. The sell­ing price for the num­ber of an “or­di­nary look­ing girl” fetches `50.

Navniet Sek­era, an in­spec­tor gen­eral of po­lice who played a cru­cial role in set­ting up the helpline, says anonymity is key to the lat­est scourge plagu­ing tens of thou­sands of women in the state. The “recharge Bhaiya’ of­ten helps to buy SIMs with fake IDs that he keeps in stacks at his store.

In what might con­sid­er­ably slow down the pace of sev­eral in­fra­struc­ture, real es­tate and in­dus­trial projects in the state, the process to ap­praise such works for en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance has come to a com­plete halt since Oc­to­ber, di­rectly im­pact­ing at least 240 projects.

The pan­els that are sup­posed to ap­praise these projects have crossed their ten­ure, and are in need of re­con­sti­tu­tion by the Union Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and Forests (MoEF). With­out a valid en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance, au­thor­i­ties in charge of these projects can­not be­gin con­struc­tion. The projects im­pacted in­clude the re­de­vel­op­ment of Grant Med­i­cal Col­lege and JJ Group of Hos­pi­tals, work on the Har­i­lal Bhag­wati hospi­tal in Borivli, an eye and can­cer hospi­tal in Wadala, road works in the Mira-Bhayan­der Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion, an in­ter­na­tional ex­hi­bi­tion and con­ven­tion cen­tre at Pim­pri-Chinch­wad, the re­vamp of the RBI quar­ters at Chem­bur, among oth­ers.

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