Some of the world’s greatest cities are defined by their nightlife. The party goes on late into the night, women feel safe travelling in wee hours, and there is a sense of community. All this in the right, legal framework. New York, London and Paris are the world’s business hubs, but its residents also have fun.
In Mumbai, though, having fun is often considered a taboo, and if you are caught singing or dancing or drinking or just chatting with your friend at a pub beyond the prescribed hours, Big Brother will be out to get you. It is inexplicable why Indian authorities do not want the residents to have fun, but well, there it is.
If the Shops and Establishments Act does not get you, the Bombay Police Act will. If the BMC does not shut you down, the State Excise Department is always at hand to do its job.
With the proposal to make Mumbai a 24x7 city by allowing restaurants and other entertainment outlets an all-day-all-night licence, this city could redeem some of the bad name it has received. Having said this, the current set of laws is being utilised to do just one thing — seek rent. Sadly, rent-seeking by the various law-enforcement authorities has become the single-biggest reason that businesses do not thrive in the city in the way they should.
This must change, and immediately. Mumbai has always encouraged entrepreneurship. This city has given rise to some of the biggest industrial houses in the country, and some of them went on to conquer the world.
Therefore the clampdown on the city’s nightlife — and the associated corruption by allowing the nightlife to continue illegally — is a symptom of a greater malaise: Mumbai is no longer the urbs prima indis. This, to the city, is deeply saddening.