Dance bar owners and staff are optimistic that the new government will revoke the ban on dance bars.
Even though the Supreme Court had lifted the ban on dance bars but the state government is yet to give its nod for re-opening of these bars. The state government has been planning to bring an ordinance to bring a complete ban on dance bars. Many bar girls have been rendered jobless after the government imposed a ban on dance bars in 2005. They were not rehabilitated by the government. The bar owners are now hoping that the situation changes once the new government comes into power. Many of them along with bar girls will be exercising their franchise and expect that the new government will revoke the ban.
Mumbai Dance Bar Association’s former president Manjitsingh Sethi has appealed to bar dancers to exercise their franchise but he has not mentioned about which party they should vote for. Despite the Supreme Court having struck down the ban that reeked of moral policing in July 2013, the state government is still contemplating its further stand.
A bar dancer spoke on the condition of anonymity and said, “We were adversely affected after the bars shut down eight years ago. The state government hastily took a decision to ban dance bars but it failed to provide alternate source of livelihood for bar girls which is unjustified.”
“I work in a beauty parlour to earn my livelihood. Since I earn a paltry sum as remuneration hence I find it difficult to make both ends meet. Nobody is worried about the problems faced by dance bar girls. The Supreme Court had lifted the ban on dance bars but the state government is adamant on its stand to shut the bars” said another girl.
Most of the girls stay in slums as they are unable to pay the exorbitant rent charged by housing societies. Many girls have returned to their native place while some other has joined prostitution activities to earn money. Since the BJP too has been taking a tough stance against certain issues hence many girls don’t expect that things will improve if the saffron party comes to power.
Prabha Desai, who runs an NGO to rehabilitate bar girls, said that the issue of ban on bars is being treated as a “prestige issue” in the election campaigning. But she is not hopeful on the issue from BJP either. “BJP had opposed the decriminalizing of homosexuality so we are not sure whether they would support reopening of dance bars,” says Desai, adding that the party would not like to be seen with conflicting “moral” views.
According to an estimate, in 2005 when dancing was banned, around 75,000 women were working as bar girls. More than 1.5 lakh others were dependent on dance bars for employment. There were around 2,500 bars running in the State without licence, according to the government’s submission in the court.
Bar owners seemed to be more vocal. Ganesh Rai, owner of a Chembur bar, said, “We are not in any mood to support a political party, but we now need change for our business to survive. The state government has levied maximum taxes, and despite the Supreme Court order to lift the ban on dance bars, no step has been taken. Patil is not above the SC and constitution. Change is necessary and several bar owners have collectively planned to cast their vote for the BJP.”