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Bar ban waits for governor

Mumbai, June 15: Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has denied reports of a rift between the Congress and its alliance partner over the dance bar ordinance and said his party had not put pressure on the governor to delay or reject it.

Reports published today said governor S.M. Krishna had referred the ordinance banning dance bars back to the Democratic Front government for clarifications and that the Congress leadership was trying to delay its promulgation.

Krishna, the reports added, wanted to know the reason for the hurry in implementing the decision and what concrete plans the government has formulated to rehabilitate the bar girls.

The ordinance has been actively pursued by Nationalist Congress Party leader and deputy chief minister R.R. Patil. The move angered dance bar owners and bar girls who hit the streets and threatened to challenge the ordinance in Bombay High Court after it is formally signed. They claim that over 75,000 bar girls and about one lakh workers would be unemployed if the dance bars are closed down and have demanded rehabilitation.

Replying to questions after the weekly cabinet briefing, Deshmukh said there was no question of putting pressure on the governor. “The decision to issue the ordinance was taken jointly by the Congress and the NCP,” said Deshmukh, who attended the media briefing without his deputy.

“We have not received any communication from the governor so far,” he said, denying reports that Krishna had referred the ordinance back to the government for clarifications.

Krishna, who was in Delhi, is scheduled to leave for his home state Karnataka after he returns to Mumbai. Deshmukh is scheduled to travel to the US on June 18 on a weeklong tour to market Maharashtra as an investment-friendly destination. If Krishna does not sign the ordinance before Deshmukh’s US tour, its promulgation is likely to be delayed by at least a week.

In a related development, the Dance Bar Virodhi Manch, the platform of NGOs supporting the ban, has sought an appointment with Krishna. The manch is likely to meet the governor next week.

Vidya Chavan, who heads the manch, said: “The dance bar industry sucks even 13-year-old girls into its vicious circle and throws them out when they are no longer young. We want the governor to look at the issue from a holistic point of view.”

On the other side of the divide, a Delhi-based lawyer has filed a public interest litigation in Bombay High Court questioning the ban. Lawyer R.K. Maheshwari has argued that such a ban is a constitutional violation of the right to life and livelihood. The PIL is likely to come up for hearing next week.

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