Enjoy all-nighters in the city, but with caution
While young Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray is set on implementing his nightlife plan, the onus of ensuring its success lies with Mumbaikars
What happens when we have a young minister who is well-acquainted with a city that never sleeps? We get a nightlife — free from legal restrictions, unwarranted enforcement and taboos. It's time we — the citizens, the operators of establishments and the governing agencies — participated in Mumbai 24×7 initiative ensuring it does not end up a mess. The pilot project to be started later this month should help all stakeholders iron out difficulties and address the concerns of the people and political parties that don't want the 24×7 programme to create more stress for the city.
Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray had made a similar attempt in the previous government but his proposal only saw the 'darkness of the night'. This time, he dug out the file and got the police, civic administration, labour and excise departments to endorse it, thanks to the influence he wields as the second-in-command at the Chief Minister's Office. Some of these agencies were also on board in the past, but the then political equations meant the proposal did not get expedited. Now, with the state tourism's reins in his hands, Aaditya has thought of a tourism angle that makes other global cities attractive because of the nightlife they showcase. However, would-be patrons may not be so thrilled considering restrictions and law-enforced limitations on operating certain types of businesses here. Establishments that serve alcohol can remain open beyond the 1.30am deadline only if they don't serve alcohol.
We must understand that a large share of responsibility of making the initiative work lies with the patrons. Freedom does not come free, but the cost is high when misused, and violations should invite the ire of the host and the intervention of law enforcement agencies. So, don't force a host to serve you alcohol after the last order is taken. Don't create a situation where the neighbourhood is forced to report you to the authorities. So far, only gated establishments have been allowed to stay open all night. Remember that the neighbourhood will want peace to be maintained outside the gated premises, too.
If patrons are expected to make the 24×7 initiative run trouble-free, the role of establishments will be equally crucial in keeping potential violators away by following the rules and regulations. The places should be safe for all and enjoyable. Temptation of minting money by way of violating terms — either at the patron's behest or by buying favour of law enforcers and regulators — should be avoided. Patrons should also regularly scrutinise the facilities. Safe environment (for women in particular), better service, quality entertainment, good food and beverages aren't just the hosts' responsibility. Patrons should continuously audit the facilities for quality and consistency. Reviews could be put up on social media for government scrutiny.
We understand that the government and civic agencies have agreed to support the initiative. But, the civic officials will have their platter full in terms of checks and balances, the police department will have to deploy extra personnel and change the entire approach to managing law and order. The excise department that is responsible for regulating the alcohol business will also be under additional stress. All agencies responsible are divided on the matter. Some police officers feel nightlife could help the force in its job as it will mean people on the streets. Others don't endorse such a sentiment. The labour department will have the additional job of verifying whether staff working nights are given proper wages and protection.
The BJP has opposed the move whereas the two other constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi , the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, haven't yet expressed their opinion. Aaditya has assured all will be well and has questioned the Opposition. "Do they want Mumbai to lag behind? Ahmedabad and Indore have nightlife. This initiative will generate jobs in the city," he said.
The BJP's point of concern is that the nightlife would disturb the neighbourhood peace and give rise to illegal activities like dance bars. "What will happen to law and order in the city?" said MLA Ashish Shelar.
He claimed he has convinced Home Minister Anil Deshmukh to review the plan. "The NCP has understood the concerns and the home minister has assured a review of the police's role in nightlife," he said, adding that the Sena, whose former MLC and veteran journalist the late Pramod Navalkar, had documented the ugly and criminal side of Mumbai's unauthorised nightlife.
"Just imagine what will happen once the government authorises nightlife. Will the government be able to control violations?" he asked.
Since not all Mumbaikars want Aaditya to have his way, the young minister should now prove the concerns wrong by piloting the project with caution, responsibility and authority. We're told he is expected to face some uncomfortable questions from the MVA partners, who he needs to convince first.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore
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