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Safest city just another tag?

Recently, Mumbai witnessed a shocking episode — another blot on its tag as India’s safest city. Five Indian Navy cadets molested a woman in a night spot in suburban Mumbai.

When asked to vacate the premises, the culprits hung around, had a run-in with the bouncers in the interim, and waited until she left the venue in an auto, as they followed her and her husband in two autos.

It was another telling blow to the safe fabric that covered this city. Ask club-hoppers of the 1970s, 80s and 90s. That free-spirited, party-loving Mumbaikar was the envy of their friends from other cities, and boasted of the coolest parties; it was the stuff of urban legend. Not anymore.

Laws are being flouted with alarming rapidity, and examples of authorities getting weak-kneed when power and money are thrown at them, is common knowledge. Often, it’s a handful of unwanted elements sadly, increasing in numbers — who cause havoc and continue to be emboldened in the eye of the law.

It’s a case of extremes. Not so long ago, a certain cop turned things on its head with moral policing that reminded one of the colonial era. The other extreme is, of course, played out often, like in the case of the recent episode. Owners of such venues often have no choice but to allow them to enter, after names of politicians and other gods are flaunted at the entry.

In light of the episode, when this newspaper ran a follow-up story on May 3, where members of the fraternity were asked about their action plan when such things happen, their responses made for a reassuring read. Yet, this was a tiny number to cover the Maximum City.

One has seen and heard of seamless entry policies being flouted in pubs that are often trumpeted as the city’s coolest addresses, or at other times, where owners have turned a blind eye where women have felt targeted in a crowd. All isn’t bleak though. Women are mostly well-looked after, especially in some of the city’s older, well-loved establishments, where extra care is taken to ensure they are comfortable and safe too.

One recalls an episode in a popular Colaba watering hole where, when a women, in an inebriated state, was ready to leave, the manager and bar staff, politely and patiently ushered her into a cab (after checking with her about her destination) with special word given to the cab driver to ensure she reached home safely. We were mighty impressed.

One hopes that the city and its women (and men too) feel safe where a strong message is sent out to those who imagine Mumbai’s night spots to be a haven for having a ‘good time’, at the expense of diluting its tag as India’s safest city — one that it boasted of, proudly, but one that unfortunately, is under serious threat, unless its lawmakers, police and establishments join hands to ensure this doesn’t happen.

The writer is Features Editor of mid-day

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