The Mumbai police are doing a good job in the city. The Social Service Branch’s efforts in busting prostitution and gambling rackets deserves special appreciation. Among others, the primary duty of the branch is to eradicate trafficking, gambling, audio-video piracy and, if need be to also resolve issues between married couples through its Social Counselling Cell.
However, of late it seems that the police force and its social service arm have been dedicating all its time, effort and energy to raiding restaurants, bars, and even roadside eating joints that remain open till late at night.
However, barring a few exceptions, most of these places are not breeding grounds for illegal activities like drugs, prostitution or gambling; as they are currently being made out to be.
Let’s not forget that most consumers who visit these places are ordinary Mumbaiites, just like you and me. They want to unwind over a drink after a stressful day at work, meet friends, or are simply looking to grab a bite after wrapping up late from work. If a few beers are thrown in, what’s the harm? At least, not until they create a nuisance in an inebriated state.
Why the sudden campaign against eating and entertainment hubs? It is ridiculous. People who frequent these restaurants, bars and pubs are middle-class Mumbaiites looking to have a good time. They work hard and party hard. I see no wrong in that. After all, Mumbai is referred to as a city that never sleeps. The city’s nightlife is considered to be one of the best and safest in the country. Raids and restrictions like these, plus revisiting old laws that make liquor license for drinking mandatory, are not only ridiculous, but also likely to affect city’s tourism industry. There are as many young tourists who would like to get a taste of Mumbai’s nightlife, as they would like to check out the city’s rich history and culture during daytime.
Till about a year ago, the police didn’t seem to have a problem with city streets buzzing way past midnight. This sudden crackdown is a sheer waste of time. The police should focus their time on controlling crimes, rather than cracking down on places that are open for a couple of hours after midnight, catering to harmless regular tax-paying Mumbaiites.
Enforcing laws effectively, is of course the police’s responsibility, but digging out a law that was made decades ago makes no sense. Mumbai is an international megacity that has changed ten-fold in the past few years. The enforcement of archaic laws should be modified to complement contemporary times.
The police shouldn’t obviously ignore such activities. But there are more compelling issues that need attention. Not everyone in the city returns home to savour a hot and fresh meal. People work late nights. There is nothing wrong in having a meal or a drink later at night, unless of course, it creates a nuisance in the neighbourhood. Bars and restaurants that don’t follow laws pertaining to playing loud music should obviously be pulled up.
However, as a citizen, I don’t appreciate any senior police officer saying, “I did not make the laws, I cannot change the laws. I just have to enforce them”. The law, the government and the police are supposed to work in tandem for the citizens’ well being. Imprisoning and penalising adults for not having a permit to drink alcohol is shocking.
My message to the police is very simple. Let’s fight together for causes that harm the society. Let’s earn mutual respect for each other – the way it happens in other countries. Simply following archaic laws and punishing the innocent is not going to help.
(Jay Ruparel, 28, lives in Matunga and works as a realtor and travel consultant)