The Congress-NCP combine at the helm of affairs in the state has made it obvious that it’s not inclined towards toeing the line drawn by the country’s apex court that recently lifted the ban on dance bars.
Home Minister RR Patil in particular has been vocal on the subject, as reported by MiD DAY yesterday (‘Will pro-dance bar activists allow one near their homes?’). But now, perhaps for the first time, a senior leader of Congress -- in the form of Member of Parliament from North-Central Mumbai Priya Dutt -- has openly come out in support of bar girls.
Dutt was not in the country when the judgment came, but soon after her arrival in the city she made her stand clear on the matter. The MP claimed she’s indeed very happy with the Supreme Court order and welcomed it too. She even asserted that by snatching away the constitutional rights of bar girls, the state-imposed ban forced many into prostitution.
This is unlikely to go down well with Patil, the mainspring behind the prohibition put in place in 2005. Even now, the minister maintains that the state would come out with a law to veto dance bars. Bearing in the mind that the business had generated employment opportunities for nearly one lakh people, including about 50,000 dancers, Patil’s zeal has found few proponents in the political spectrum. Varsha Kale of Womanist Party of India, who was fighting the legal battle on behalf of the bar girls, had told this newspaper that some people had made the matter into an ego issue, which is why the ban was being thrust upon the trade. Preferring not to take Patil on directly, Dutt said, “The right to earn a living is a part of the constitution, and taking that away from them (bar girls) forced many into prostitution.”
No date has been set for reopening of dance bars, as the state, which has to issue permissions and amend the Bombay Police Act so the entertainment joints become operational again, is planning to go for a review petition and get a stay on the SC order.
It’s noteworthy that Priya Dutt, whose father late Sunil Dutt was a staunch advocate of the red-light workers of Kamathipura, had once even asked for legalisation of the sex trade (‘Prostitution should be legalised: Priya Dutt, January 24, 2011, MiD DAY).
“Another great and much-awaited decision from SC is the ban on over-the-counter sale of acid, which is the first and most essential step to curb these violent acts that occur so often and so easily, and also the compensation of Rs 3 lakh for every victim,” Dutt said.