MUZAFFARPUR: The infamous Chaturbhuj Sthan here is buzzing with excitement. A former tawaif, Rani Begum, now in her mid-40s, has been elected ward councillor of the Muzaffarpur Municipal Corporation from the ward no. 16 which includes a large chunk of one of the oldest red-light areas of Bihar. Chaturbhuj Sthan is said to have a recorded history of more than 100 years, and it is home to about 1,000 sex workers. Ecstatic supporters of Rani Begum took out a procession to celebrate her victory. Slogans like “Ward councillor kaisi ho, Rani Begum jaisi ho” rent the air as elegantly dressed former tawaif and her troop of dancing girls went around the ward. “My efforts will be to solve the problems of my ward, and if I get a chance, I will make the city better,” she remarked while insisting that her victory has a lot to do with the support of her admirers. Her supporters say Rani Begum wants to become the mayor of Muzaffarpur, the second largest city in Bihar after its bifurcation. “For three decades Rani Begum remained the heartthrob at numerous marriage receptions. On several occasions in the past marriage was fixed or cancelled depending on whether Rani would perform in it or not,” stated Lakshman Singh, a resident of the locality. Even at a place like Chaturbhuj Sthan, which is one of the hotbeds of crime in the state according to intelligence reports, few dare to do a thing that displeases her. “Her political links are very strong, and the police have never dared to conduct a raid on her house,” observed a local resident. However, sex workers appear to be happy with the “social change” as reflected in the municipal elections held in the state after about 18 years. “Eighteen years ago, nobody could have thought of a tawaif contesting elections. This time Rani Begum and a few others contested the polls,” said an aged sex worker. Though Chaturbhuj Sthan still has tawaifs armed with licence performing before select groups of audience, the remains of an era when landlords used to patronise such dancing girls, the business is clearly going downhill. The entry of satellite TV has clearly hit their business. Yet Chaturbhuj Sthan continues to thrive. Not because of its majestic tawaifs but due to the flesh trade. Two-thirds of the girls residing here are reported to be in the flesh trade. “There are two parts of Chaturbhuj Sthan; in one part, there are dancing girls having the licence; the other part is a red-light area,” said Muzaffarpur SP R K Singh. He stated that the flesh trade cannot be tackled only legally. There has to be a social pressure. Most of the sex workers in this area are aged between 14 and 18, who have been brought here by tricking them into love or marriage. Trade operators in the red-light area are well connected. Even when he conducts raids and arrests them, their touts manage to get them released within two days, the SP added. Police officials refer to numerous incidents when they have made futile attempts to remove such girls from Chaturbhuj Sthan. Ultimately, more than 90 per cent of the girls are forced to return to the trade.