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SC asks Maha govt to license dance bars in two weeks

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Maharashtra government to deliberate and select applications for authorising hoteliers to have dance performances in beer bars.

The Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C. Pant, gave the two weeks’ time limit. The bench was informed that the Maharashtra government had not enforced its October 15 order both verbally as well as in document.

The law banning dance bars – an amendment in the Maharashtra Police Act – had been passed unanimously without a debate in June 2014. Earlier in 2013, the top court had quashed a similar law banning dance performances.

The court also mentioned that it will make sure that there would be no obscenity during the dance performances.

The law banning dance bars was amended and passed under the Maharashtra Police Act – unanimously without any disputes in June 2014.

The apex court had pointed out that the provision was taken back in the Maharashtra Police Act in 2014.

The previous amendment of 2014 was challenged by restaurant owners, arguing that the state was preventing the intention of the court by not implementing their recent orders. The Supreme Court agreed, noting that even though it had set aside a parallel provision, the law had been revived in a new manner.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devandra Fadnavis tweeted on Thursday, that the government would search all legal choices including legislative mediation as they are essentially against reopening of the dance bars in the state.

Over 1500 bars throughout the state had provided work to more than 75,000 women dancers before the state government first enforced the ban in 2005. The Bombay High Court had on April 12, 2006, refused to the government’s choice and stated the provision unconstitutional, mentioning that it was contradictory to Article 19(1)(g) (to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business) of the Constitution.

Maharashtra Government had then advanced to the Supreme Court in contradiction of the high court’s verdict.

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Supreme Court unhappy with Maha Govt for not reopening dance bars

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Source: Huffington Post

New Delhi: Supreme Court was miffed with Maharashtra Government that even after its order on 15th October, the government has not allowed almost 800 dance bars to reopen.

Harish Salve representing the Maharashtra Government said that the bars drew a lot of youth drinking heavily and watching dance and it was completely unacceptable to us.

He also said that it could lead to increase in crime and youth getting misdirected, wasting the money.

Justice Dipak Mishra, however, said that everyone is free to carry out any profession they want as long as it is performed within acceptable parameters.

While, Maharashtra Government has a justified reason to worry about the bar’s impacts on society and youth, but they can’t moral police anyone and neither, they can afford to have more opposition on the ban after the beef controversy.

The dance bars have been a matter of debates in Maharashtra despite different governments. Restaurant owners have been against this order and they took the government to the court.

Mumbai being the hub of the Bollywood has had the cinema like bars where dancers copy the silver screen moves.

It has been perceived as a wrong influence on youth and a threat to Indian culture. While, a number of people get wrong influence and addictions because of it, but it can’t be denied that it depends on a person and his will.

Many women who have this as a profession, have no other option and simply closing all the dance bars will mean hurting their source of income which might lead to worse case scenarios.

The Government, if they want these dance bars to be closed at all conditions then they will have to find a solution and a way of life for all the people involved first. By making this move, it becomes government’s responsibility to provide an alternative for them.

In  India, usually it is understood that best way to solve a problem is making its root disappear. Example- when Uber rape case happened, a lot of people asked for a complete ban on all cabs. Surely there is a better way to counter this and closing all the dance bars won’t mean that youth of Maharashtra will have no other options for wrong influence.

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Supreme Court gives new lease of life to bar dancers

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed that there are alternative ways to ensure the safety of bar dancers rather than outlawing dance performances and gave a stay order on a legal provision in the Maharashtra Police Act on the prohibition of entertainment. However, the apex court verdict gave license to the police to take stringent measures if they find performances obscene in nature. It asked the concerned authorities in Mumbai to decide in two weeks on the issue of giving licenses to the bars which allow dance performances.

The Supreme Court order gave a new lease of life to the women who had lost their jobs after Maharashtra State Assembly banned dance performance in July, last year.

“The cure was worse than the disease”

In 2005, the Maharashtra government branded the bars as dens of vice and facade for prostitution and clamped a ban on dance bars. Bar owners, activists and NGOs protested the move and contested the ban, saying that the bars staged dance shows only. The labour union of the dancers apprehended that many dancers would be forced into flesh trade.

Some bar dancers migrated to other cities in search of livelihood. However, the year 2006 witnessed a glimmer of hope for the bar dancers with the Bombay high court ruling that the ban violated the constitutional right to earn a living and was against public interest.

Prior to the ban, Mumbai had a staggering 400 dance bars with over 65,000 women and 40,000 men involved with the profession. Post-ban, the glitzy industry and the government incurred a loss of over Rs 3000 crore. Notably, in 2013, the Supreme Court upheld Bombay HC decision to junk the ban on dance bars in the state.

But did the remedy bring back those who had taken up prostitution?

Being a bar dancer is not easy as ofttimes they have to do what they don’t want to. At the same time ‘realities of life’ push them to an extent where the only option left is to get on with the ‘demands and expectations’ of the job and the customers.’ These demands are more than just seeing the dance, as they can be anything from asking the girl to sit with them, talk to them and even going to the extremities of asking for sexual favours.

Many customers ask the bar dancers to come and sit with them and chat. The empty chat goes on and there are chances when a customer might ask for satiating his libido. Undoubtedly the bar girls operate in a high-risk zone. And cases have been reported of desperados pouncing on them. It is obvious that they dare to share their personal details only after several encounters with the same customer.

Many dance bars even in Kolkata also act as pick-up joints and a forum for flesh trade. It is undoubtedly an alternative income for the dancers who have to willingly or unwillingly sleep with the clients. Many of the deals are fixed up within the bar itself.  The customers are forbidden from touching the dancers without their consent.

Many of the girls are forced into this profession from poor and broken families where the girl is the sole earning member. While an average dancer in a Mumbai dance bar can easily make about Rs 500 per day, her Kolkata counterpart gets around Rs 200 per day. However, providing sexual favours hikes their income at a rate desired by them which elevates them to a higher status in the ‘bar girls’ circle.

Thus, the idea of flesh trade beckons a bar dance right from the time she begins catering to a man’s fantasies. The lure of currency bundles triggers a simple “yes” to a client. Though dance bars do not encourage prostitution yet they turn a blind eye to these happenings.

However, some dance bars, including those in Kolkata, have rooms where customers can spend time with their ‘chosen girl’. Compared to other forms of prostitution, sex via dance bar route keeps the woman in command as the bar takes care of them to some extent.

But protection is not guaranteed in this sort of field where uncertainty is the most certain thing.

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Massage parlors & Dance Bars in Kolkata: See What happens behind the curtains

In Kolkata, hiding behind their swanky ambiance, dance bars and massage parlors have become hot destinations for quite a few. NewsGram's reporter Arnab Mitra digs into the matter.

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By Roshni Chakrabarty and Arnab Mitra

Hiding behind their swanky ambiance, dance bars and massage parlors have become hot destinations for quite a few. NewsGram reporter for Kolkata, Arnab Mitra went to uncover bits and pieces on what happens behind those satin curtains and scented lounges.

Sao Massage Parlor, Salt Lake

Large banners in the vicinity of the Sao Massage Parlor in Salt Lake announced its existence. According to the banner, one could avail Chinese, ayurvedic and various other massages here.

Arnab made his way to the massage parlor which took two floors of a residential building in Karunamoyee, Saltlake. The person who runs the massage parlor is a resident of that very building.

As Arnab attempted to enter the place, he was greeted by 2-3 men who welcomed him with a catalogue. The prices ranged from 500 to 20,000 rupees for the various types of massages. Along with the name of each massage was the photo of the massage expert. All of these “massage experts” were women.

Arnab flicked through the catalogue and said he preferred to “order inside”.

The beautifully decorated massage parlor was marble floored and looked like every other swanky beauty parlor. Separate sections were allocated for the different services. Customers could avail cigarettes, alcohol or ganja as per their choice.

Arnab chose a nominal hair massage worth 500 rupees. The North-eastern woman who came to offer him her services was dressed in a mini skirt and a half sleeved shirt.

On hearing certain noises coming from the nearby room labeled for Ayurvedic massages, Arnab excused himself to go to the toilet which was situated right beside that room.

A grizzly sight inside the room met his eyes. Around 3-4 men were pulling the saree of a woman in the room.

The woman, who seemed to be her early 20s, was pleading with the men who were relentless.

“Tumko 20,000 rupiya diya gaya hai massage ke liya, ab toh jitna maza karna hai hum karenge, parlor mein ghusne se pehle hi yeh kaha gaya tha humse.” (We have offered you 20,000 for the massage, now we will have as much fun with you as we like. We were promised this even before we entered the parlor.)

As the girl kept trying to fend them off, one of the men burnt her arms and body repeatedly with the cigarette he held.

Surprisingly, all this was happening right in front of the owner of the parlor- a middle aged lady of a seemingly middle class family. The other women working there strangely seemed to be enjoying the situation as they taped the incident.

Were these men really customers? Or were they brought in for some other purpose? Is every customer allowed to treat the women in this manner?

Such questions sadly remain unanswered.

Arnab took out his phone and, on the pretext of listening to music, tried to covertly capture a video evidence of the incident. But his intentions were promptly discovered and despite playing the press card, his mobile was snatched away and the video deleted before he was shoved out of the parlor.

When Arnab went to the Bidhannagar Police to complain about the forceful snatching of phone and deletion of evidence, the police mocked him. “Apnara toh news kilogramey bikri koren.” (You sell news by the kilo.)

Soon after, Arnab was asked to leave the police station.

City Heart Bar & Restaurant, Barasat

When Arnab entered the City Heart Bar & Restaurant in Barasat at around nine at night, business was flourishing. High voltage Hindi numbers played while beautiful young women danced on the floor.

Alcohol poured and money flew as the touts made deals left and right on behalf of the women. Earnings are divided amongst each member of the establishment, including the touts and the manager, the NewsGram reporter learned.

As Arnab offered 100-150 bucks to one girl, a tout came and inquired whether he was looking for something special. On a deal of Rs 5,000, Arnab was taken to the girl he had offered money to.

On meeting him, the girl took him by the hand and led him to a room right beside the dance floor, where she proceeded to take off her saree.

Arnab stopped her saying he had come from an organization which worked with sex workers and that he was just looking to speak to her regarding a few things.

After the initial hesitation, Tanisha(name changed) said she was in the profession willingly and that when she had applied for the job, everything had been explained to her clearly. “I am the sole bread earner for my family. I have to look after my parents and other family members as well. This profession helps me earn enough for that.”

She added that a dance performance would only help her earn around Rs 200-300 per day and it varied according to the time and customer. They had no fixed salary. “So, we have to choose the other path to ensure we have enough food in our stomach.”

The tout came and asked what was wrong and whether the girl had refused him. When he started to shout at the girl, Arnab quickly stepped in to clear the confusion.

Citing a family emergency, he paid Rs 500 and left.

Here is a video that Arnab took at the City Heart Bar & Restaurant:

https://youtu.be/kukrcvpeqeM

 

What is the problem?

Unlike red light areas which undergo regular surveillance, these dance bars and massage parlors have no proper system to monitor them. As a result, anyone can do anything in these establishments. One can easily avail marijuana, cocaine and other drugs as well as indulge in various illegal under-the-table give and take activities in such places.

Establishments such as these are on the rise. In suburban areas such as Rajarhat and Salt Lake, a dance bar or such massage parlors be found at distances even less than 2km of each other.

Many of these massage parlors are situated in residential areas which give them adequate cover. Residents are worried about the safety of young women as areas in the vicinity of such establishments lose any semblance of decency after sundown. Young women are called names and harassed with obscene gestures.

“It becomes impossible for us to step out after 11 at night,” said Saltlake resident Amal Ganguly. These new businesses act as a deterrent to normal life of the public. “Drunken brawls, problems created by biker gangs and the damage of property are daily issues. The situation gets even more aggravated on weekends!” Ganguly added.

Residents allege that complaints to police, councilors and administration fall on deaf ears and they are only assured with promises of “will see to it”, but no action is taken.

An incident in Haridevpur around a month ago saw an innocent civilian in his early 30s shot to death in a gang war which started off in a dance bar. Kolaghat also saw a similar incident on Navami night where another civilian got killed.

The government needs to pay attention to these establishments and ensure a system which can monitor them regularly to avoid any grim incidents and criminal activities. Moreover, care should be taken that such businesses are kept separate from residential areas which might otherwise prove to be a problem for other civilians and destroy the natural environment of the area.

Arnab Mitra is a Kolkata based photojournalist and reporter for NewsGram.

 

2 responses to “Massage parlors & Dance Bars in Kolkata: See What happens behind the curtains”

  1. যা যা হয়েছে এগুলো কারো অজানা নয়। এমন কি পুলিশ ও সব জানে। ও ভাগ ও পায়। আনন্দবাজার সহ বাকি পত্রিকা গুলোতে হাফ পেজ জুড়ে #পত্রমিতালি + full enjoyment এর বিজ্ঞাপন থাকে। হাইলাইট করলে এটাই যা/

  2. I have been to a number of massage parlours in kolkata & other parts of India & overseas as well. Irrespective why the masseuse choose this line, I never came across any scenario like the one described in Sao spa by the same author. I discussed with some of my mates – got the same negative result.
    I am not arguing that things don’t happen, but this is something which is very bizarre requires authenticity of the happenings…its not always that reporters are right or they want to portray to correct photo.

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