No more Jagdamba or Gopika?

In a strange decision, the government of Maharashtra closed down all dance bars in the state — except Mumbai. Citing reasons for this move, “Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister R R Patil said dance bars, which had flourished in various parts of the state, had adverse effect on the youth, ‘damaging’ the cultural texture of the state” [source: Rediff News]. The reason this news caught my attention was because Panvel, my hometown had seen an extraordinary rise in number of “dance bars”. Basically these bars catered to the needs of hundreds of villages around Panvel. The sudden onrush of activity in form of construction contracts for various development projects had infused obscene amounts of money in the region. The erstwhile lower-income class of Agris (a dominant caste in the region) suddenly found itself rolling in money. After splurging on cars and Rayban goggles, they indulged their philandering proclivities by frequenting these “dance bars”. Supply meets demands, and soon the couple of such bars were joined by dozens of other cheesy-named (see title) bars that were effectively liquor dens. The women that served and danced mostly came from suburbs of Mumbai but that soon changed when local women also wanted a share of the pie; morals be damned.

Of course, not just alcohol was served in these bars; AIDS cases in the region shot up dramatically and if you ever wondered infidelity is a western import, you would think again if you heard about the “extra-curricular” activities that such bars propagated. But every society has to fulfill its vices. Political indifference, however was never more evident when my dad once gently confronted the MLA on this issue. He was amusingly shocked to hear his justification — the women in the region were getting jobs and thus the dance bars were empowering them and making them financially independent. Now that’s like an economic argument but I hadn’t expected from the otherwise conservative MLA. The actual reasons, however were much different as anyone would guess.

Getting back to the latest development that led the government to crackdown on these bars, I wondered who sponsored the legislation. I was surprised (again!) to see the name of our own MLA, Vivek Patil of the Peasant Workers Party as the lead sponsor. It seems that the party has been agitating against the dance bar culture for quite some time. Ah-ha! How things change, or has the cash flow from the bars to politics stopped? Are dancing jobs being outsourced to Biharis and Nepalis, (the two most-exploited demographic group who also drive down the price of labor in India) and the economic argument doesn’t hold anymore? And why was Mumbai spared from cultural depravation? Too late?

On a side note, even such highly moralistic decisions do not fail to provide laughs that I have come to expect from Indian politics:

“Meanwhile, the dance bars in Mumbai have decided to remain closed from April one to protest against the government decision’s. “The dance bars in the city will remain closed to show their solidarity with the bars in rest of the state, which have been ordered to close down,” Bar Association of Mumbai President Manjit Sethi told PTI”

Ah-ha! Such unity; it should make AFL-CIO and Datta Samant’s ghost mighty proud.

PS. Another thing in the article that made my imagination run wild — “The recent raid on ‘Baywatch‘ dance bar in Khalapur has endorsed that such bars are centres of flesh trade, the members added.” Imagine Pam Anderson and Yasmine Bleeth dancing away to glory on “Main aaye hoon UP Bihar lootne”! Now, that would be worth flinging your hard-earned money away; for the hilarity, not for erotic pleasure.

Update: The Law and Judiciary Department ruled equal status for Mumbai and rest of Maharashtra regards bars, and hence the state government has extended the ban on Mumbai bars as well. Chandni Bar-red!


  1. I wonder why the Mumbai bars are untouched…underworld connections?? or maybe thats the politicians’ they dont want them shut down.

  2. Sqrl – I wonder about that too. I guess the cosmopolitian atmosphere of Bombay or “Its already too late”…the dance bars elsewhere in the state are also politicians’ haunts including spl.discounts for their cronies. Pathetic!

  3. Philandering prcolivities…wah wah kya alliteration hai *grin*

    So Pat, any personal “experiences” in a dance bar ? :)

  4. Ash – LOL! welcome to the verbose world of Pat…explains why I might never win a Booker. Personal experiences….hmmmmm…nah! Me good boy :)

  5. Pat, I beg to differ.

    I think the idea of cracking down on Dance-Bars is pretty lame. The primary business of the bars is to make money on the liqor and food served.

    Although I’ve never been to a dance bar personally (primarilly because I am scared of Police raids, and I dont want to be handcuffed just for having an innocent drink) I know quite a few people who go to dance bars, just to drink, and to blow money just for the heck of it (food & liqor is priced pretty high in a Dance-Bar as compared to an ordinary one – INR 250-300 just for a Simple Beer ~ retail price: INR 50-55) – some people who are stinking rich and *less cultured* somehow like that ambience.

    True, quite a few dance bars have turned into Brothels. The Police collects quite a hefty “hafta” from those already (there is no question of the police having a high moral ground) – plus the state earns crores of rupees by way of taxes from all these establishments. If prostitution is the reason why these Bars are being closed down, the state could definately put a check on that specifically, rather than closing the bars down. Its like forcing a person to commit suicide just because he has jaundice – when the *jaundice* could be treated.

    Also, if the state is trying to fool itself that closing dance bars is going to change the prostitution scenario in the city, then it is living a pipedream. A person whose primary goal is paid sex, regardless of socio-economic background has a thousand other places to go to, and means of getting what is desired – dance bars are just *one of the means*. Closing dance bars, is not going to be a panacea.

    I thought I was living in a *FREE COUNTRY* – this just feels so wrong!

  6. Imagine Pam Anderson and Yasmine Bleeth dancing away to glory on “Main aaye hoon UP Bihar lootne”! …
    I read this before a meeting yesterday and I couldn’t get the image out of my head! Caught myself smiling at totally inappropriate comments made by my Manager!

  7. Ok..lemme get this staright, their reason for closing down the dance bars are because they are diminishing our cultural value. Finally we know the truth, cos all the time, I kept thinking, it was the open flesh trade market called bollywood, or the corrupt politicians manipulating the system or those gals working towards some “Extra pocket money”. They just opened my eyes!!!

  8. Saket – I understand what you are going thru :) the bars were closed down simply because they weren’t politically feasible anymore. No plans of actually impoving the “moral fabric” of our state was involved. Trust me.

    Gabby – I hope I don’t get you fired. Next, you might suggest that your manager do the item number.

    Queer – Cultural value and moral fabric are best left alone by the government but we know our politicians well now, don’t we?

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