Lockdown has totally stopped Sita’s (name changed) business.
She is a commercial sex worker at the infamous red-light area of Silchar.
The red-light zone is located near downtown Premtala of Silchar and is known as ‘Chouddo Nombor Galli’ (Lane Number 14).
It is the largest and oldest brothel of Northeast, having about 200 sex workers, and almost all are victims of human trafficking.
Sita’s savings have dried up, and she doesn’t see any hope of revival of her business.
“People are scared of the killer disease,” she said.
The lockdown and fear of contagion have kept her clients away. And, there is no immediate hope of the return of the clients.
All sex workers earn daily wages.
Like Sita, there are about 200 commercial sex workers in Silchar’s more than half-century-old infamous red-light zone.
And, everyone is nervous about the future.
“How long can we get to buy ration? Why will the shop owners give credit to us? They know it well that we may not be able to repay,” Seema, elder sister of Sita, said.
They said some kind-hearted people of Silchar gave them some dry ration as relief last Sunday.
“But, we know people cannot support us for too long,” Seema said.
The sisters said the business started to dwindle from the second week of March when the notorious COVID19 started to spread tentacles in India.
And, sustaining without any income for more than a month has been disastrous, they said.
Not too long ago, these 200 sex workers in Silchar were caught on the edge as they had failed to register their names in the NRC.
The final National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published on September 14, 2019, and all of them had failed to qualify as citizens of India.
The sex workers had failed the NRC test because they had failed to produce their legacy data.
Unlike the sex workers of Kolkata’s Sonagachi, the inmates of the red-light zone of Silchar neither have voter identity cards nor Aadhar cards.
As India went into lockdown on March 24 midnight to combat the coronavirus pandemic, almost all of them are left without food or work.
“HIV is dangerous. But, we know about it, and we have protections,” Sita said, adding that COVID19 is a totally unknown killer.
Both Sita and Seema are still naive about the protection from COVID19.
All residents of the red-light area live in cramped quarters, with poor sanitation.
Social distancing is also something that is extremely difficult to practise in the profession.