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.
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. The woman has shared her phone number with the recharge person on the assumption of trust.Innocent girls are not told their number is up for grabs and are being sold for 50 Rs (£0.59) if the girls are ‘ordinary looking’.Girls that are deemed to be attractive by the retailer have been reported as commanding as much as 500 Rs (£5.90).It is easy to be a mobile recharge agent and all that it takes is filling up a form and depositing a security amount with an agency mediating between the individual and the mobile service operator.
Uttar Pradesh is teeming with them and not all are involved in selling the numbers.“Not us,” says Manu Bhaiyya, who runs a PCO-cum-recharge outlet in Allahabad. It is mostly the new guys in the business who do it.
The police, instead, go after those rechargers who enable the purchase of SIM cards under fake identity.
“We have booked three recharge guys so far under Section 467 for dealing in false documents,” he says.
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.
The unscrupulous rechargers save the numbers and then pass them on to those willing to pay.