| Dance bar girls at a protest in Mumbai against the Maharashtra government’s ban on bar dancing. File picture
Mumbai, Jan. 1: The one-night satisfaction is being called the “RR Package”, after deputy chief minister-cum-home minister R.R. Patil.
The service is provided by many of the former dance-bar girls who lost their livelihood because the Maharashtra government, goaded by Patil, banned the bars.
The name is the women’s way of showing gratitude to Patil ' “Mr Clean” of state politics ' whom they see as responsible for forcing them into the gutter of prostitution.
“The package comes with one room at a Navi Mumbai lodge, one girl and three condoms,” said Varsha Kale, who heads the Bar Girls’ Association.
“It costs Rs 1,000 a night. I came to know about this a month ago, when a girl who had been to Navi Mumbai spoke about it.”
The lodges came up swiftly after Independence Day, when the ban came into effect, set up by people who sniffed a good business opportunity.
Life has changed for the state’s 1 lakh-odd former bar dancers. For most, it’s been a quick descent into prostitution, the social evil the government felt it could combat better if it banned dance bars.
“There are many other packages. Their number has gone up,” said Kale who, along with activists, had warned the government about the likely fallout of the ban.
“As the new year approached, the girls were being called away to the so-called private parties, especially at places with many farmhouses or just off the highway, like Lonavla, Khopoli, Dahanu and Gorai.”
“About 2,500 girls are away right now,” confirmed Prabha Desai of Sanmitra Trust, which works with bar girls.
The small towns, such as Latur and Sangli (Patil’s hometown), are reportedly swinging with local politicians hiring the former bar dancers in great numbers for their private entertainment.
“Many of the girls are going to other cities like Hyderabad and Bangalore. Some with passports have gone on long ‘contracts’ abroad,” Kale said.
The girls go to the “private parties” to dance but don’t have the power to refuse sex. In the more romanticised environment of the dance bar floor, they could keep their distance. An aura of glamour surrounded them in the better bars, where they usually had the option of rejecting a proposition.
Thrown out of her floor, the dancer now must do as she is told.
“Many of her former customers will now turn to her and taunt, ‘Bahut nakhra dikhayi; abhi aa gayi naa line pe (Too precious, weren’t you' Now where’s your snootiness gone)'’ It’s like ragging,” Kale said.
Others have turned directly to prostitution.
“Many have joined brothels or worse, the floating population of sex workers,” Kale said. Kamla, a former sex worker who has turned anti-AIDs campaigner in red-light districts, confirmed this.
“But the highest number of girls have turned waitresses,” Kale said.
Of all the degrading “careers” the girls have taken up after the ban ' the government has quietly forgotten its promises of rehabilitation ' waiting is the worst. It’s a euphemism for girls offering instant sexual services at the bar.
“Waiting is still legal, so the girls have turned to the so-called entry bars,” Desai said. At these bars, also called “silence bars” ' as opposed to those that play music ' or “free bars”, the girl is supposed to serve beer and give the customer company. But she is also obliged to provide sex if the customer demands it.
At these bars, mostly shady joints outside Mumbai, the Indian male’s preference for lighter skin is creating a new social order.
“Earlier, the fair, good-looking girls would only work as dancers. But ever since they turned to waiting, they have been pushing out the less pretty, older women, many of whom were Maharashtrians,” Kale said.
Desai added that this has been the fate of the Bengali women, too ' the ex-waitresses are turning to prostitution.
A waitress is paid a pittance ' Rs 1,300-1,500 a month ' compared with the Rs 15,000-25,000 she earned at the dance bars. She now works two shifts instead of only at night and is allowed three hours’ overtime.
“Many of the girls live together in crowded rooms ' up to 15 to 20 a room ' because they can’t afford higher rent. Some are forcing their adolescent daughters into prostitution,” Kale said.
“Some have sent their children back to their villages. Next year, many of their children will stop going to school.”