December 19, 2015 16:15:28

Dance Bars to Open in Mumbai after 10 Years, and Here's How the Dancers Feel about It

by Bhaskar Chawla

It has been 10 years since dance bars were banned in Mumbai. Famous dance bars like Deepa Bar in Vile Parle were replaced by things like Patanjali Ayurved outlets. Dance bar owners either went into other businesses, or continued to operate dance bars, albeit illegally.

The dancers, some of whom once earned six-figure sums every month and led lavish lifestyles, became domestic helpers and escorts, among other things. People in other professions that were linked to dance bars, lost a significant amount of business. The industry and the government lost an estimated INR 3,000 crore.

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Now, the Supreme Court has turned down an appeal by the Maharashtra government to ban dance bars in Mumbai. It has directed the government to issue licences to dance bars. The Court is not satisfied with the state's case, because it failed to explain why elite bars and hotels can continue to have dance performances, but lower-end places are accused of being exploitative and degrading.

There are many dancers who are extremely happy with the Court's decision. Some are already trying out at bars, some who are migrating to Mumbai are looking for jobs as dancers, and some are even cutting short trips to their home towns to go back to Mumbai. Erstwhile dancers, who are considered too old to dance now, are now recruiters who work on commission. It may not get them the kind of money dancing did, but it still pays more than the jobs they did in the last decade.

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Varsha Kale, the president of the Bharatiya Bar Girls' Association, is very happy with the Court's decision.

"The Maharashtra government really did not have a case against dance bars. Why don't they grant permission for adult entertainment bars on the lines of those in Las Vegas? It will definitely start with a big bang now and it is a victory for our struggle; there is no indecency going on in the dance bars," she said.

There may be a lot of support for this decision among people involved in the profession, but there are also some legitimate concerns. Bar owners think about profits, and therefore want to keep costs down. Deals between owners and dancers are verbal, there is no fixed duration of employment, and owners take more than half the amount the dancers earn in tips.

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While some, like the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association, are trying to ensure that there are some guidelines for dance bars, so that they don't get into trouble with the government, some, like Smita Patil, daughter of Maharashtra's former deputy CM RR Patil, are completely against legalisation of dance bars. "I will protest on the streets. I will garner support from everyone I can to stop these bars from operating," she said.

This is a complex issue, every aspect of which needs to be considered. Unchecked, these bars could, like they have in the past, become dens of illegal activity like human trafficking. However, an outright ban seems unreasonable given how many people's livelihoods it affects. Let's hope there is a well thought out solution.

H/T - HuffPost India



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