This could have you ROFL, but... | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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This could have you ROFL, but...

mumbai Updated: Feb 26, 2016 00:49 IST
Ayaz Memon
Mumbai

Iam not enamoured by acronyms, but nothing caught my sentiment better than ROFL after reading a story on the front page of Thursday’s edition of this newspaper.

The story pertained to the state government’s move to have a CCTV ‘live feed’ of dance bars to the closest police station, which the Supreme Court court has debunked, calling it ‘absurd’.

Read more: SC questions Maharashtra govt’s ‘weird’ licence norm for dance bars

Loony, ludicrous, nonsensical, nutty, asinine — to mention a few — would seem more apt in the context. Remember though this has come from a bench of the apex court of the country, not a stand-up comedy show.

The bench of justice Dipak Mishra and justice Shiva Kirti Singh, perhaps in keeping with the gravitas of their position, refrained from using a stronger word. But that does not limit the imagination.

Close your eyes, consider the government’s proposal and think how it would play out in real life. There’s the picture of Mumbai police personnel sitting in their police stations from Colaba to Virar all day, watching dancing girls and pretending to work!

It’s a cinch that you will be ROFL: if not literally, at least metaphorically. The mirth, however, is temporary, for the underlying ramifications of the proposal are deadly serious as justice Mishra and justice Singh have highlighted tellingly.

“There is a right to privacy everywhere,’’ they have observed. In these surcharged times, when fundamental rights is a raging national debate, the significance of this observation can’t be overemphasised.

I’ll refrain, however, from dwelling on the larger debate and restrict this piece to the state government’s compulsions in this quite senseless hounding of dance bar owners and girls.

It must be said the current government is only pursuing what the previous one had put in motion.

It was the Congress-NCP alliance that originally got all worked up about dance bars, projecting them as the source of almost all immorality.

The late RR Patil as home minister had led this charge from the front, using mostly invective and value judgment rather than logic when questioned about his stance. Sadly, most politicians of all hues and across parties tended to agree with him.

What gives their pique so much vehemence is surely worthy of deep study. A simplistic explanation would be that Mumbai can horrify those unfamiliar with its liberal, bindaas attitude, which tends to push boundaries all the while.

This can be perceived as bad or even morally depraved to those unfamiliar with this ethos and it was only when the matter went up to the apex court that the previous government’s order banning dance bars was quashed.

The new government, one thought, would have learnt from the mistakes of the previous one, but unfortunately chose to tread the same line of argument, albeit in different garb.

The real tragedy here is that instead of looking at the welfare of the employees of dance bars and the rights of working women especially, the government has seen it as debased entertainment-cum-crime.

What seems paramount in this argument is only the personal moralities of politicians.

But that is not the reason why people elect their leaders. An overbearing nanny state is not what people want.

The Supreme Court had put the Maharashtra government back on track in 2014 by making the order that banned dance bars repugnant. That should have been the end of the matter, but the powers that be were not chastened.

Now the bench of justice Mishra and justice Singh has come out in pungent admonition of the government’s attempts to pry into the private affairs of citizens.

“There are many women who feel this is an avenue for them as they may not be able to do other professions. They have a right to profession. That right has to be respected,’’ they noted.

In a wider context, the core issue here is of civil liberties. And if it needs reiterating, this can’t be allowed to be trumped.