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Dance bars face music

Mumbai, March 30: Maharashtra today announced a major crackdown on dance bars across the state, except Mumbai, and decided to cancel their licences in an attempt to curb what it believes is a corrupting influence on the young generation.

Deputy chief minister R.R. Patil announced the decision in the Assembly, setting the stage for a confrontation between the government and dance-bar owners and bar girls.

A few hours after the announcement, the Bar Owners' Association and the Dance Bar Girls' Union jointly decided to close down Mumbai dance bars from April 1 to express solidarity with the others across the state. The two associations represent over 1,500 beer bars and an estimated 100,000 bar girls.

Patil, also the home minister, made the announcement while answering a call-attention motion that MLAs Vivek Patil, Ramchandra Sale and Tukaram Birkad tabled in the lower House, referring specifically to the increase in dance bars in Raigad district.

Patil dubbed the burgeoning dance bars a corrupting influence on the youth and said even Mumbai's dance bars would not be spared. 'A five-member committee, headed by an additional chief secretary, will be set up to study the legal norms for the bars in Mumbai and make recommendations within three months.'

He had hinted at the ban at a police function in Pune on March 20.

Asked why he had differentiated between Mumbai bars and the rest, Patil said: 'Most of Mumbai's bars are legal and sufficient police personnel are available to enforce rules strictly. In rural areas'they (bars) take licences for serving as an eatery and for serving liquor but start operating as dance bars.'

Bar Owners' Association president Manjeet Singh Sethi threatened to take the government to Bombay High Court.

'The Centre just yesterday allowed women to work on night shifts. But the state is taking away legitimate employment of so many women working in this sector,' he said.

The Democratic Front government in the state has earlier tried to regulate the dance bar industry in Mumbai. It had talked about imposing a stringent dress code on bar girls and suggested erecting a 3-ft barrier between the dance area and the customers.

In January 2004, Mumbai police commissioner A.N. Roy ordered a massive crackdown on nightclubs and dance bars in which over 600 bar girls were arrested and more than 52 bars were served showcause notices.

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