It’s a healthy sign of a society that we have rational judges in India’s top court to counter the weirdo moral judges within various sections of the society. The Supreme Court recently slammed the Maharashtra Police for trying its best to prevent reopening of Mumbai’s nearly 200 dance bars. The apex court had issued an order six months ago to grant the bars licence.
The Mumbai Police, who is riding high on moral policing, was till now putting in several rules to make the dance bars almost redundant, and thus keep the “morality” of the city intact. Justice Dipak Misra has categorically asked the police department to get rid of the narrow mindset: “This is a dance, a performance, and if it enters the realm of obscenity, it is prohibited. Then IPC will take care of it.
After 154 bar owners complied with nearly 24 conditions, including installation of CCTVs at the gates, and no showering of currency notes, the Mumbai Police added more bizarre conditions that alcohol cannot be served at the place from where the performance is watched, no bars within a kilometre of religious structure or educational institutions. This is taking the issue too far, sitting on the high grounds of morality, and the judges of the Supreme Court has done a great job rubbishing all these constraints.
In 2005, state minister RR Patil took a call to ban around 2,500 dance bars in the state, including 350 licensed ones such. Bar owners were in dire straits; they either closed down shop or turned their properties into orchestra joints and family restaurants. Several of the bar dancers changed their glittery costumes and turned into waitresses, donning simple salwar-kameezes to serve the customers.
The daring ones who were used to earning handsome money in their previous avatars, moved to the Gulf or South East Asian countries to become sex-workers. The rest, who could not leave their roots, took odd jobs or turned into private call girls.
Besides the bar owners and the bar girls, the secondary sectors got hit by the ban. The tailoring shops that stitched glitzy and beautiful garments for the bar girls, found it difficult to run their business, some thriving shops even incurred losses up to Rs 8 lakh. The government that banned these bars did not provide them any employment and thousands of people suddenly turned jobless.
This is the case where law makes far more harm than good, and cure becomes much more dangerous than illness itself. Justice Misra has echoed the right sentiment that it was better for women to perform in dance bars than begging on streets or indulging in unacceptable activities.
There are several new additions that would border on Talibanising a democratic state. Our society has entered an irreversible rot and our politicians and social system owners can only brag about being a cultured and a pragmatic society, when in actual we have been the most corrupt lot, socially and morally.
Like the Supreme Court has pointed out, the charge of indecent behaviour and prostitution doesn’t hold. The ban hasn’t decreased crime and prostitution within Mumbai. The dance bar business is a victim of political mess, immaturity, incapacity to handle the things wisely.