Amidst the COVID-19 lockdown innocent girls from the Northeast seeking jobs, amongst them as aspiring models, are in the danger of falling prey to fraudulent opportunities, a report that took the social media by storm said. At a time when unemployment is high due to the lockdown with closure of many establishments the youths are jobless making them targets of shady companies on the pretext of glamorous careers.
A widely shared report on social media said StormyTV, based in Delhi, has been recruiting many girls from the Northeast region with the promise of a career in modeling. StormyTV is also currently running a selfie contest with Rs. 10,000 prize money. They have also promised future careers in modelling for Northeast girls in Delhi or those who are willing to travel to Delhi for a Rs. 50,000 per month salary job. The online audition for the same started on June 20. News on the suspicious and shady activities of StormyTV has been on social media since the first week of July.
Meanwhile the Manipur Students’ Association Delhi (MSAD) on July 21 has issued a press release calling on the people of “WESEA” (Western South East Asia) to save “our sisters from sex trafficking.”
According to the statement the news that got viral on social media claims that the platform is trying to get attention from Northeast girls in a bid to recruit them for prostitution in other Asian countries on the pretext of recruiting them for modelling and stage performance.
Since educational institutions and workplaces are closed the Northeast girls face a bad education and job prospect. Therefore, they have become soft targets. Those in the hospitality sector are worst-affected due to the closure of workplaces.
Ostensibly taking advantage of the unprecedented situation the StormyTV has organised online auditions and selfie contests through their website and is collecting private photos and details of many young girls, especially from the Northeast. To attract the innocent job seekers, especially girls, they have prizes with opportunity to be models and for other contract works.
According to the viral post which has been circulating through WhatsApp and Facebook, such platforms are not related to modelling and reality shows. They are doing publicity in the name of modeling, artificial intelligence, start-up, sports detailing 2020 Model Hunt, 2020 Gamer Hunt, 2020 Sports Hunt, 2020 Talent Hunt, 2020 Fitness Champ etc.
It may be mentioned that the Meghalaya based SP News Agency carried an advertisement promoting StormyTV on June 25 as an AI-based innovative platform which is available as an over-the-top delivery model on the internet. It further added quoting Raj K Pathak, a well-known mediapreneur, heading the StormyTV initiative for Cratuz, “The content of the StormyTV will be curated from across India especially from remote North Eastern region – as the tribal talent has remained unsung for decades due to lack of a viable platform. StromyTV will bridge that gap.”
However, the MSAD president Saikhom Chingkheinganba has said that few girls had even run away from the office of the company. The people of the Northeast should be very alert about such platforms as they are being targeted by mainland Indians for prostitution business. The statement has condemned such activities and also termed it as racism.
Many incidents have taken place in the past when Northeast girls seeking jobs were trapped in forced labor, sexual slavery, and commercial sexual exploitation by taking advantage through many agencies, says the statement of the MSAD.
Using technology many young girls are being targeted and driven to the wrong path through tempting websites and social media platforms with ulterior motives, the statement has said. The MSAD president demanded that authenticity and legitimacy of every such platform and the persons behind these platforms should be investigated. “Once trapped in such activities, victims are threatened and blackmailed to remain silent, not to expose the truth,” the MSAD statement said.
Notably, MSAD former president, Thokchom Veewon also made an urgent call to alert all “Northeastern” girls on his Facebook post on July 23 that the head of the company, StormyTV, has been identified as one Kuldeep Bhayana. In his LinkedIn profile, he claims to be the founder of Cratuz Inc. in the United States. The wide range of activities of his companies include artificial intelligence, startup firms, reality shows, modeling firms etc.
Interestingly, Advocate Dr. Alana Golmei of the Northeast Support Centre and Helpline, based in New Delhi has been following the case for a long time and has found weblink to porn websites in Kuldeep’s LinkedIn profile. According to more statements, some women work for him and had already recruited 20-25 girls in the last two pandemic lockdown months.
As of now, there have been many girls who quit the company after working for two or three days; their reason being that Kuldeep Bhayana “misbehaved” with them. There are also other girls who are identified but are not willing to cooperate. It has been informed that they had been threatened not to speak out.
Meanwhile, Alana added, “Let’s save our girls from falling into the trap of this man and StormyTV. They are recruiting the Northeast girls preferably between 17 to 20 years and use them for other purposes and not for real modelling or reality shows. We need to sensitise our people, our state governments to stop from getting associated with this person. His company is dealing with artificial intelligence, start-up, reality shows etc., anything – you name it; it’s there just to trap our people. When I was checking his profile to see if it’s genuine I came across a porn site in his LinkedIn profile. He acts as if he is genuinely running his company and providing placements for the Northeast girls but I have been informed by those who ran away from his office after working for one or two days that something is not right. Some of our girls are being used as agents to recruit young girls from the Northeast. All the Northeast states must be informed to be careful and verify every company recruiting the Northeast youths.”
Veewon further added that the main hunting ground for StormyTV has been Instagram, where they reach out to Northeast girls who have huge followers in their profile. Also, they had reached out to Youtubers from Manipur and Mizoram for promotion, both males and females. They are also in the process of reaching out to a well-known female film star from Manipur. As of now, she has been informed about StormyTV and its shady operations.
Veewon cautioned girls of the Northeast region to stay away from such people, especially on social media. There are possibilities that murkier things are involved behind the call for modeling to Northeast girls.
Advocate Alana Golmei said on July 23, “Lots of online sex racket via social media are being reported and I want our Northeast girls to be always alert and extra careful. Once you are trapped there is no return, your life will be completely destroyed and your dreams will be shattered.”
In another attempt to lure young girls the perverts are using other tactics, offering a particular chat platform to earn Rs. 10,000 per week, which is a part-time job. The nature of the job is to adult chat with a client without showing your face, and if the chat is 5 minutes more than the usual time clients will increase the amount to Rs. 15,000. Due to the pandemic crisis many people have lost their jobs and these perpetrators are taking advantage of the situation and trying to lure especially Northeast girls. They threaten and blackmail the girls once they are trapped by uploading their pictures on porn sites or social media, adds Alana.
Fraudulent activities targeting innocent girls who are hit hard economically by the lockdown are on the rise. The youths particularly the girls of the Northeast need to be very cautious of landing lucrative job offers and other opportunities in view of the new development. The Manipur Students’ Association Chandigarh (MSAC) has also issued a press release on July 24 asking the girls from the Northeast to be extra cautious of fraudulent offers which may involve modern technology while they look for career opportunities. Among the latest condemnations, the Kuki Students’ Organisation Delhi and NCR (KSOD and NCR), Naga Students’ Union Delhi (NSUD) and the Manipur Students’ Association Delhi (MSAD) in a joint statement on July 24 have said that “it is part of systematic racism and discrimination which has not stopped till now”.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics