Of the 50,000 dancers who dispersed to different parts of the country after losing their livelihoods with the ban on dance bars, at least 30,000 are expected to wind their way back into the city when the bars reopen.
Varsha Kale, president of the Womanist Party of India, is confident of her calculations, having campaigned against the ban for years. Her efforts finally paid off yesterday, with the Supreme Court upholding a Bombay High Court verdict and quashing the order passed by the state government in 2005. Even as she celebrated the decision last evening, Kale was running from pillar to post at the Supreme Court, trying to get her hands on a copy of the judgment.
Kale claimed that the judgment would be welcomed with joy. She also added that it was not a loss for the government, but for the ego of certain leaders. “The state government doesn’t have any grounds to go for a review petition, but they will not let this happen soon because of the forthcoming elections. For the middle class, issues related to morality are supreme and the government is completely aware about this mentality. Hence, to avoid criticism from public and even the Opposition, they will try to delay matters and not give permission soon,” said Kale. As many as 1,250 dance bars were flourishing in the city when the curtains fell on them in 2005. But with the embargo set to be lifted, the numbers are likely to go up.
Kale is confident that the girls will return to Mumbai. She said, “The girls migrated to different places after the dance bars were shut down. But now, they will return. They have spoken to me on several occasions about the good treatment they get in Mumbai and how it’s a better place for them and their families. Working in Mumbai gives them better bargaining power with other clients when they go abroad or to other parts of the country to dance,” said Kale.
Kale is also hoping that many will be wooed back into the profession by the consideration that dancing in a bar is preferable to a life of prostitution. Bar dancing provides an alternative to the flesh trade, said Kale.
According to Kale, 20,000 of the 50,000 bar girls will not be returning to their erstwhile profession -- while age has made some of them unfit for the exertions of the profession, some have settled down. Others have succumbed to diseases like AIDS.
A bar owner claimed that new bars would mushroom in the city, attracting a fresh influx of dancers who want to cash in on the boom.
“Even the bar girl who dances in the shadiest of bars would take home a minimum of Rs 3,000 every night. Which other profession would give an illiterate girl so much money? It’s the lure of money and their poverty that will bring the girls back to the bars,” he said.
But it is far too early to tell -- a local from the central suburbs spoke of a bar girl who married and settled after the prohibition was decreed. She now has children and has promised not to return to the bars.
Number of dance bars flourishing in the city when the curtains fell on them in 2005