The Dadar office of Manjeet Singh Sethi was chock-a-block with media crews yesterday. The man himself was busy giving interviews, narrating how he took on the administration in a long-drawn-out encounter, and won.
“Despite the Supreme Court judgment, it seems the government is reluctant in giving a go-ahead to opening of dance bars. The officials should have complied with the high court orders, but they appealed against it in the apex court. If they now create any hurdles, they would be in contempt of court,” Sethi said.
According to Sethi – president of Bar Owners’ Association – before the ban there were at least 350 licensed bars in Mumbai that were a source of employment for 75,000 girls and an equal number of workers hired as stewards, bar tenders and guards.
“Not only the illiterate ones, but many educated girls too had joined the trade to run their households,” he added. “There was a girl in my bar who used to own a lingerie shop in Andheri. She would perform in my bar after shutting her store at 7pm. It was a moral and decent way to make a living. If a girl wants to go into prostitution, no one can stop her. And if a girl wishes to remain just a dancer, no one can force her into the flesh trade.” he maintained.
When asked whether the opening of dance bars will boost human trafficking, Sethi put a different spin on the matter. “The girls who were left unemployed with the shutting down of the establishments were trafficked into prostitution within the country and even abroad,” he claimed.
Sethi has also displayed interest in sitting across the table with the government and set up guidelines to prevent obscenity, and law and order problems. “If the government wants we can install CCTV cameras in our premises and preserve the records. Whenever the police ask for the footage, we will submit it. If any rule is breached, they can book us,” he argued.
Did you know?
The culture of dance bars started in Khalapur, in Raigad district, around 75 km from Mumbai, in the early 1980s. The first such bar was ‘Baywatch’ which functioned quietly at night. Around 500-600 dancers and bar girls were brought from different parts of Mumbai and Thane in airconditioned buses to the venue in late afternoons.
The strategic location of Khalapur made it a favourite with the revelers, it was just off the Mumbai-Pune highway, and a vehicle disappearing into the rural darkness was hardly noticed or missed. After earning a bundle — ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand rupees -- many of the dancers would return by the same bus early morning the next day and reach home before sunrise; the 'others' who stayed back with patron-customers would make their own arrangements to go home.