The new BJP Government tightening the screws on nightlife in Bangalore, protestors are calling it ‘Bangalore bleeding’.
With the Bangalore police deciding to go strictly by the book again all restaurants with live bands and dancing have been banned. Over the past two Sundays musicians, artistes, disc jockeys and Bangalore’s partying public have been protesting the
reinforced ban at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in central Bangalore. Participating in this Sunday’s protests, writer and theatre personality Girish Karnad said the decision to ban live music lacked logic. It will affect artistes adversely. Instead
of going after criminals the police are going after musicians.
Despite the protests featuring over 1000 people on Sunday, the Bangalore police cracked down on as many as 32 discotheques operating without valid licenses in the city.
The licensing order makes it mandatory for all places offering live entertainment to be licensed by the police after meeting strict standards. The Act prevents places serving alcohol from staying open beyond 11:30 pm and women from dancing in places
where alcohol is sold.
Though, the state home department has indicated a move to modify the laws to reduce restrictions on nightlife, no legislative action has been taken yet. New Bangalore police commissioner Shankar Bidari has stated that he is willing to consider relaxation
of nightlife rules if he receives sufficient representation from the public.
The existing laws has resulted in a tussle between owners of lower end dance bars and the upper end lounge bars and discotheques. The introduction of the licensing rules for cabarets, dance bars, discotheques and live bands in June 2005 had resulted in a
clampdown on all forms of dancing at public entertainment spots in Bangalore.
However, in December 2005, following appeals by owners of establishments, the Supreme Court permitted live bands and dancing in restaurants and hotels on the condition that the establishments didn’t encourage prostitution or indecent shows. While
the Bangalore police allowed dancing and live music shows at pubs, restaurants, nightclubs and discotheques, they imposed a more stringent curb on dance bars on the grounds that they encouraged prostitution. This discrimination has been challenged by
owners of dance bars in the High Court resulting in a complete clampdown on all nightlife.
A major crackdown is expected on the dance bars, which are running illegally around Mumbai. Dance bars were banned from August
2005 but several of them still operate clandestinely in Mumbai and its suburbs.
Maharashtra home minister R R Patil said that if he comes across incidents or complaints of dance bars being operational, he would take action against police officials involved.
Patil's statement came during the Question Hour in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. A questioner complained that despite the ban, dance bars thrive in the western suburbs of Mumbai supposedly creating law and order problems with locals.
Patil, as home minister was instrumental in banning the dance bars. Following the ban, the Bharatiya Bargirls Union and Fight for Rights of Bar Owners' Association has moved the Bombay High Court, which lifted the ban, but allowed the Maharashtra
government to move Supreme Court. The SC has admitted the appeal of the state. The ban, however, remains in force.
While some of these work in the dance bars, which operate clandestinely and take in only selected patrons, some girls on the other hand – have been hunting other jobs since the dance bar ban. Some of them has taken to mujras, some are now
working as waitresses in orchestra-bars, some have moved to the Gulf and some have taken to prostitution.
In 1986, there were only 24 dance bars in the city. Within a year the number reached to 32. Within a decade the number went up to 206 and by 2005 the number rocketed to 1250. And, finally came the ban in 2005.
With both the Mumbai excise and police department refusing to budge from their earlier restrictions, bar girls
have decided to take matters into their own hands and commit mass suicide if they cannot get their jobs back.
Over 4,000 bar girls from the city have been jobless for the past month and a 48 member group will be submitting a written petition to the police department and the High Court today, seeking to resolve the matter at the earliest.
Kiran, who has been working in a dance bar for the last two years, said: I am homeless and my savings are exhausted. I am forced to live with friends and relatives, but even they refuse to let me stay on. The only option left is to commit
Similarly, other girls like her have been supporting their families and with their income stopped, they are facing a terrible crisis. Meena will lead the group to appeal to the Bangalore Police Commissioner: We are suffering because of someone
else's mistake. The cops have to answer why they are being so unfair, she said. She added that many girls are approaching prostitution agents from other states to generate income to sustain their families: Our actions are being forced by
the cops since we have no other option.
Due to recent miserable changes in the law, Mumbai bars have had to drop traditional ways for customers to tie up
with sex workers. And in an attempt to outfox the police, bar owners have come up with several ingenious methods to keep the ball rolling.
Confirming this was the Assistant Commissioner of Police of the special squad of the city police, Vasant Dhoble, who said recent raids on eight city bars over the last month showed the emergence of new, sophisticated trends:
We came across several bars where a ramp was created and the bar girls were asked to do walk on it, similar to what is done at fashion shows. The bar staff made them wear expensive, revealing clothes to attract customers. The customers then make
enquiries and choose a girl. This is a new trend that we have come across in our recent raids on bars. There is a full-fledged thriving prostitution racket going on in bars.
And how does the money change hands? Girls walking the ramp get huge tips from clients and the bar takes a considerable cut out of that as commission .
That's not all. When the cops came calling, they seldom found the girls scurrying into hidden cavities and bunkers. Nowadays, it takes less time to hide girls. During police raids in the past , the security guard used to warn those inside the bar
by pressing a switch on the main door, which either set off an alarm inside or turned lights and off. The girls then used to jump into the bunkers on stand-by. But now, the bars have kept a dedicated waiting man in the bunkers, whose job is to
pull in the girls as soon as the raid begins. This makes it faster to hide the girls.
The police claimed that hidden cavities and bunkers were found at almost all the bars that were raided. During raids, we go around with a sledgehammer and demolish cavities inside the bars. But, they again make new cavities. We have written to
the civic department about this. But no action has been taken yet, said a police officer on the condition of anonymity.
Another new way to outmanoeuvre the eagle-eyed police personnel is to make the bar girls sit down as customers the moment a raid begins. This makes it difficult for the police to establish if the girl is one of the bar's staff or a genuine
customer, said the police officer.