Retired assistant commissioner of police Vasant Dhoble, who was the face of police crackdown against immoral activities during his sting with the Social Service Branch, said that while police has to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision, it also has to ensure that reopening of dance bars does not lead to exploitation of women and other immoral activities.
“The SC has stayed the ordinance banning dance bars. It has not stopped police from taking action against illegal or immoral activities. If laws are flouted, police will and should take action. Currently, a licence is issued to orchestra bars on the condition that no more than four women will be on stage, doing nothing other than singing,” Dhoble said.
“Does the SSB not take action against bars almost every week when women there are found behaving suggestively with customers in the name of singing?” Dhoble went on. The concern expressed by police officers regarding dance bars is about the number of avenues that would open up, as had in the past, for illegal and immoral activities. While several dance bars have been raided in the past for operating flesh trade rackets, the dance bar industry had also opened up opportunities for illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, who had started coming to the city in large numbers looking for jobs as dancers. There were also cases of young girls being forced into the industry and subsequently in flesh trade against their will.
Dhoble said that if dance bars reopen in the state, police should lay down strict conditions at the licensing stage itself, so that there is little scope for exploitation of women. “All employees should be subjected to background checks; police should find out whether the women are being forced into the job and all dance bars should be under CCTV cover. Licences should be issued based on fulfilment of these conditions,” the former ACB added.
Dhoble vehemently opposed the theory propounded by a section of policemen, who said dance bars were a great source of information as most criminals would splurge their ill-gotten wealth every night, and bar girls and waiters would often provide useful tip-offs. “Would you really like to make a choice between getting information about ten criminals and letting two women be exploited? Even if you get information, it would be at the cost of women getting exploited. The police know a hundred other ways to look for information,” Dhoble iterated.