“A farmer who came along with the produce of his two month long cultivation to the wholesale market, Vashi and sells it. Pocketing the revenue, he leaves to “enjoy the profit” along with his friends. He enters one of those famous dance bars that employs Bar Girls. Inspired by the mob, he parts with good amount of his revenue and leaves next day morning, with almost nothing in his pocket. He reaches his village only to have an altercation with his wife and his family suffers for the next one year.”
There were many families that have been ruined in similar fashion. None of their stories were reported, in any media. The amount of money they threw at the dance bars was not in millions like Telgi and Hitesh Bhagat so that it is widely reported in “Page 3” columns. Neither the wives of these farmers were so eloquent and courageous to come before media and create ruckus. Even the feminists don’t support them, for this news exactly don’t make headlines like temple/darga entry. But, these families suffer. Year after year. When the number of families crumpled due to the menace, RR Patil, the only man who could talk about morality in Maharashtra politics, despite being in the wrong party cracked the whip.
When the Government of Maharashtra closed down the bars on 15th August, 2005, this became the only issue on which there were no objection across political spectrum, except lack of clarity on the rehabilitation of ‘bar balas’, the euphemism used for the Bar Girls. And this decision was not taken in the spur of the moment, but the decision was an outcome of three years study and evaluation. Nearly sixteen years after these dance bars started operations, in 2002, the Government evaluated the impact of these bars on the law and order.
Let us consider some excerpts from the case filed in the Supreme Court:
‘It is claimed that 20,196 cases were registered under Section 33(w), 110 and 117 of the Act from the year 2000 till 2005. Also, various cases of minor girls being rescued from dance bars were reported during the said period 2002-2005.”
The note from the Chairperson of Maharashtra State Commission for Women wrote to the State on 6th Aug, 2004:
“Number of rackets indulging into physical and financial exploitation of girls working in dance bars by forcibly bringing them into this profession are found to be increasing alarmingly. In the metropolis of Mumbai, the problems of the bar girls have acquired grave dimensions and have resulted even into death of many bar girls. These women are forcibly induced into prostitution leading to total destruction of their life.”….
“Most of the girls working in Dance Bars of Maharashtra State do not hail from State of Maharashtra, but come from other States.”
“In the future this problem in all the probability would spoil our social health by acquiring increasingly grave dimensions, not confined only to Mumbai but extending to the National and even International levels.”
The letter went on to recommend a ban on such establishments by stating:
“I therefore, request you that the system of issuing permits to the Bar Girls by various departments of Government should be stopped forthwith, thereby relieving the women from their physical, sexual and financial exploitation in the future.”
When the dancing in dance bars was banned, as expected there was relief to many a village households. But, there was a loss of income to many businessmen, who earned money by exploiting others. The Indian Hotels and Restaurants Association had challenged the ban in court and high court lifted the ban on 12th April, 2006. The fact that it took only eight months to decide the case, while so many cases were pending in the revered court shows the special treatment the appellants received.
Of course, Supreme Court treated it as another case and delivered its verdict on 16th July, 2013, while upholding the judgement of the high court. There were so many arguments in support of the ban the government placed in front of the Supreme Court. However the Supreme Court felt that ‘the cure is worse than the disease’ and so removed the ban. The court recognized the fact that post ban, many dancers were forced into prostitution. What they ignored was that 84% of the Bar Girls have come from outside of Maharashtra and most of them were young girls with little or no education and were lured into the profession? Yet, the learned judges felt that as they were ‘trafficked from different parts of country and have nowhere to go or earn a living after coming out of their unfortunate circumstances”. So, he thought rather than trying to create alternate jobs, they may be allowed to dance.
To some extent, if evaluated without prejudice, losing livelihood is a cause of concern, especially when the number of jobs are quite high. There shall be rehabilitation program, but unfortunately in India, it is easier than done.
However, it is not the loss of jobs for so many ladies that is the only issue. What the judges ignored was the fact that once these dance bars are allowed to establish again, gates are thrown open to trafficking young and vulnerable girls of another generation. Will the judge accept moral responsibility for such new inclusions into this vicious cycle? Are the judges not to think about the future generation and stop the vicious cycle?
More so, the owners of dance bars were hell bent on resuming their activities, and were pursuing the case as if they are the guys who were left lurching for livelihood. And they use the lame excuse of loss of jobs to bar girls, only to further their case that had a hidden motive of making more money at the cost of these poor girls. It is like a pack of wolves crying they were only helping the sheep from the torture of the physical life, by eating them!
It is a strange case wherein, the political class, that is normally notorious for exploitation was contesting the court that represents morality!
Now, this year drought was nearing. And all seasoned politicians know what it means to the women folk of villages. Thousands of commoners are already seen in the streets of Mumbai. Even in seventies, when the onslaught of drought was unbearable, young girls from rural were forced into the prostitution. And sensing the business opportunity, during the calamity, these vultures are preparing ground for renewing their business of exploitation.
It was really shocking to read the comments of the judge: “It is better to dance than beg on streets”. In fact, the practical version would be “It is better to prostitute than beg on streets”. Even those few ladies who dance out of choice were doing only for the sake of quick money, similar to many college going girls practice prostitution. Then, why don’t the courts legalise prostitution. After all, it was considered the first profession in the world!
No, My Lords. You are wrong. Bars were closed down a decade ago. Whatever the fate of those Bar Girls who worked before ban will not change with your judgement. But, your judgement and opening the bars would certainly jeopardise the future of many a girls. Each and every girl that would be trafficked henceforth to dance in these bars and then forced into prostitution will hold you, the Judge who allowed the bars to be reopened responsible.