Young girls found in a room in Hyderabad, some wearing school uniforms, have led the police to uncover a horrifying racket in which children were injected with hormones and sold for sex.

Eight traffickers, including six women, have been arrested. A dozen girls, four of them below seven, were rescued by a team that raided brothels following a tip-off.

“The traffickers bought the children, all from poor families, through agents, by paying them between Rs. one lakh to Rs. two lakh for each girl,” said senior police officer Mahesh M Bhagwat.

The gang would also scout for young girls at railway platforms, perhaps those who had run away from home. The younger the girl, the greater the price she would fetch, the traffickers have told the police.

What is most frightening is that the girls were given hormonal injections to have them ready for sex work at the earliest. A doctor who was allegedly paid Rs. 20-25,000 to administer the injections has been tracked down, the police say.

“We are going to arrest the doctor as well. The new anti-trafficking law also has provisions for that,” said Mahesh Bhagwat.

The police stumbled upon the racket after five people were recently arrested under the Preventive Detention Act.

“A kingpin appears to be Yadagiri. He bought children for one lakh to three lakh rupees,” Mr Bhagwat said.

Some of the girls were being sent to school so no one would suspect anything unusual in the neighbourhood.

“Our teams got information about five girls confined in a room in Yadagirigutta. We went in to check and found two of those girls in school uniform. Questioning revealed that they were being confined in the name of being relatives and used for sex work,” the police said.