Mumbai bar dancers hail SC verdict

Mumbai: Bar dancers, who were abruptly rendered jobless after the Maharashtra government shut down dance bars on August 15, 2005, hailed the Supreme Court verdict permitting conditional re-opening of these joints, here on Thursday.

Bharatiya Bar Girls’ Union (BBGU) President Varsha Kale said that the dancers have been fighting for it since nearly 15 years and finally now the dance bars have been allowed to resume operations.

“The closure in 2005 left many thousands suddenly unemployed, many fell ill and died. Their female children were forced into prostitution. But, now things should change,” Kale, a co-petitioner for re-starting dance bars, told IANS shortly after the verdict.

However, official sources said on Thursday that the government was still not in favour of re-starting dance bars and might consider going in for a review plea in the Supreme Court.

A former dancer in a prominent suburban bar, Kiran M., said that the verdict will provide jobs to lakhs of semi-literate girls who throng Mumbai from all across the country for employment opportunities but are rejected by different organisations.

“They don’t get proper jobs as they lack either qualifications or experience. Many end up doing low-paying menial jobs, or fall victim to social evils. Now, with the dance bars getting a green signal, we are hopeful of a better future,” she explained.

Kale said that the stakeholders would study the issue pertaining to the licensing norms of the Maharashtra government, which was challenged.

“We don’t expect dance bars to become functional immediately till the licensing authorities do the needful, though there is a huge demand from various quarters.”

The dance bars were shut down during the erstwhile Congress-Nationalist Congress Party rule by the then Home Minister, the late R. R. Patil.

During its heydays, there were an estimated five-six lakhs dancers working in 2,800 legal and many other unauthorised dance bars spread across Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Pune, adjacent to state highways, supporting a few lakh others comprising support staffer, allied businesses and families.