Mumbai: January 17: Bar dancers, who were abruptly rendered jobless after the Maharashtra government shut down dance bars on August 15, 2005, welcomed the Supreme Court verdict on Thursday permitting re-opening of these joints with certain conditions, even as the opposition slammed the government alleging “setting and funding.”
Major Opposition parties such as Congress, Nationalist Congress Party accused the government of a “setting” with the dance bar owners and “funding” for the upcoming elections for going soft on the issue. But the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena appeared on the defensive.
While Congress spokesperson wanted to know “how much funds the BJP collected for a mild defence in courts”, NCP spokesman Nawab Malik made a shocking allegation that a deal with huge financial implications was finalized at the CM’s residence two years ago for soft-pedalling the issue.
Minister of State for Home Ranjit Patil said while the SC’s verdict would be respected, the state would ensure that objectionable activities under the guise of dance bars are not allowed to resume.
Others like Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, senior leader NCP’s Jitendra Awhad and NCP Women’s Wing President Chitra Wagh charged the BJP-Sena with “complete failure” in defending the crucial issue in the apex court.
The leaders declared that whatever happens, they would not allow the dance bars to reopen in the state as they exploited women, corrupted the youth and resulted in all kinds of social evils.
Maharashtra State Women’s Commission Chairperson Vijaya Rahatkar and Shiv Sena’s senior woman leader Neelam Gorhe guardedly said that SC has upheld most of the stringent rules imposed by the state government a few years ago, “so there’s no blanket permission granted, as sought to be conveyed in the media.”
Hailing the apex court ruling, Bharatiya Bar Girls’ Union (BBGU) President Varsha Kale said that the dancers have been fighting for it for nearly 15 years.
“The sudden closure of dance bars in 2005 left many unemployed, many fell ill and died. Their children were forced into prostitution. But, now things should change,” Kale, a co-petitioner for re-starting dance bars, told IANS shortly after the verdict.
Official sources indicated that the government was still not in favour of re-starting dance bars and might consider going in for a review plea in the apex court.
A former dancer in a prominent suburban bar, Kiran M. said the verdict will provide jobs to lakhs of semi-literate girls who throng Mumbai from across the country for employment but are rejected.
“They don’t get proper jobs as they lack either qualification or experience. Many end up doing low-paying menial jobs, or fall victim to social evils. Now, with the dance bars getting a green signal, we are hopeful of a better future,” she explained.
Kale said the stakeholders would study the issue pertaining to the licensing norms of the Maharashtra government, which was challenged.
“We don’t expect dance bars to reopen immediately till the licensing authorities do the needful, though there is a huge demand from various quarters.”
The dance bars were shut down during the erstwhile Congress-Nationalist Congress Party rule by the then Home Minister, the late R. R. Patil.
During its heyday, there were an estimated five-six lakhs dancers working in 2,800 legal and many other unauthorised dance bars mushrooming across Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Pune, adjacent to state highways, supporting a few lakh others comprising support staff, allied businesses and families.
The shady world of dance bars was effectively portrayed in the 2001 National Award winning film, ‘Chandni Bar’ with a realistic peek into the mafia crimes, prostitution, shady dealings, exploitation and other ills centering around these nocturnal entertainment outlets. (IANS)