Though the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) R R Patil has done a few good things as the state’s home minister, they are nullified by several other incidents — the brutal killings of Dalits, attacks on RTI activists, the unsolved murder of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, rising crimes against women, unabated instances of policemen caught while accepting bribes and strictures passed by courts against the working of the police force.
Some of the high points of his tenure are — transparent recruitment of police officers, police maintaining regular contact with senior citizens over the issue of their safety, officials with a clean track record placed at key postings in the city and the state.
There were also special drives against child labour, drug addicts, and campaigns against drink driving and trafficking of women. Yet, these are overshadowed by the ministry’s missteps and wrong moves.
One of them is the flip-flop on dance bars. The Congress-NCP government has not been able to decide its stand, even though ten months have passed since the Supreme Court set aside the ban on dance bars.
If you are exempting five-star and seven-star hotels from the ban, it is not going to withstand legal scrutiny, the government was told clearly by some of the officials. But, the home department did not pay heed to it, not even the then advocate general, who nodded in favour of the ban.
The fate of such a discriminatory stand was inevitable and the state lost the case, leaving the government red-faced.
R R Patil is still a sworn opponent of dance bars, and has the full backing of his party ministers and legislators.
The Congress supported the move even as the then CM Vilasrao Deshmukh expressed some cautions.
Even now, there are signs that the state may not allow dance bars to operate in the same format as they used to be earlier. The dance floor and bar may be de-linked to minimise its influence. The state seems to be of the opinion that the mix of booze and dance proves to be a deadly combination, leading to other ills.
The government isn’t so naïve and unaware of some of the hard facts of the business of dance bars. Even today, the home department can provide no satisfactory answer to the question — why does it want to restrict an activity which its
officials have failed to regulate? The existing rules and regulations, if implemented scrupulously by the police, ensure that no dance bar can operate in a wrongful manner.
Dance bars are governed by many rules — which apply to its location, space, the number of dancers, amenities for them, waiters and waitresses, their working hours, facilities to patrons and the services offered at a dance bar, and
most importantly, the timings.
If the police decide to raise its baton, no dance bar can dare flout the rules. But, things started going astray long back when the cops developed a special interest, along with a liberal view towards it.
It is known that some of the police stations in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai were considered ‘cream police stations’, just because of the number of dance bars they have under its jurisdictions. It was also said that many officers had direct or indirect partnerships in the business.
To be sure, the concerns and views expressed by Patil and his supporters cannot be contested. It was argued even then that many youngsters – particularly from Raigad, Pune, Satara and Sangli — were addicted to dance bars. Sons of rich farmers, businessmen, politicians could be found there. The places were havens of anti-social elements — many of them could be spotted in the midst of dancers.
In other words, the police failed in their job of regulating the activities at dance bars. And those who did wish to do so were shunted by the unscrupulous elements using their clout in the corridors of power.
Patil first has to deal with a force that has failed its commander-in-chief. The mafia can be dealt with later.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day