The Supreme Court verdict on Tuesday left bar dancers in the city feeling triumphant after eight years of having to toil for a livelihood.
An elated Pravin Agarwal, vice president of Fight For Rights Bar Owners Association (FFRBOA), one of the petitioners against the ban said the order would not just help restore livelihood for over 20,000 bar girls, but also for lakhs of others who worked for these establishments.
Agarwal, who was forced to convert his Elora dance bar in Borivli (East) into a bar and restaurant following the ban in 2005, said, “The livelihood of tailors who would stitch clothes for dancers, men who would help with make-up as well as taxi and autorickshaw drivers who would transport the girls had all been hit by the ban.”
Munmun, originally a bar dancer, now works as a singer in an orchestra bar. “In the eight years following the ban, we were forced to indulge in activities that we had never done before just to earn a living,” she said.
According to the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (Ahar)—the main petitioner against the state government’s decision to ban dance bars in 2005—at the time of the ban, there were about 400 dance bars in the city under the association, which employed a total staff of about 1.1 lakh members, including bar dancers, cooks, and waiters.
“We are happy these women can return to their profession, which used to be their only source of income since most of them did not have other skills,” said Arvind Shetty, president, Ahar.
“Although Ahar was in no position to offer alternative employment to them, the state had promised something but did not implement it,” he said.
Varsha Kale, president of the Bharatiya Bar Girls Union, which was another petitioner, said the ban was followed by a period of trauma for the bar girls.
“Many of the girls had to sell their houses and several got into prostitution. Although some managed to change their professions to become waitresses and singers it was the lowest rung that was left without hope,” said Kale.