A miniature hockey stick made of gold, a trophy of some sort, lies in a glass case in Assistant Commissioner of Police (Social Service) Vasant Dhoble’s office.
To us, it’s a clear reminder of one of the ACP’s more recent crackdowns on the city’s nightlife — the night (April 15) he used a real hockey stick on the staff and customers of a juice centre in Juhu that aroused his wrath.
Since then, the police officer has been involved in high profile raids and pub closures that have made the city’s partying element very nervous.
Will Mumbai’s famous nightlife vanish completely, they wonder? Why is this crackdown happening now?
“It’s been going on for a while, it’s not sudden,” says ACP Dhoble, who agreed to answer our questions on behalf of the city’s party crowd. “Have you seen the Facebook campaign against me?”
He’s silent when we inform him that we have indeed seen the Facebook page in question, and that more than 20,000 people support it, but soon returns to answering the question he was asked: why this crackdown on nightlife?
“Over crowding is the main issue,” he states.
“If a place that can accommodate 77 people is letting 500 people in, what will happen in the case of emergencies?" The same thing that can happen to a train bogey that can fit 150 people but usually accommodates 800, we counter.
But Mr Dhoble does not accept that. “Madam, (overcrowding) train is a necessity. It is not a necessity to have a crowd of 500 people at one time in the pub. Is it?”
Isn’t it a choice, we ask. Don’t people have the right to decide how to spend their evenings and nights?
In the last few months, numerous clubs have shut shop. What does the police plan on achieving?
We are not against any establishment’s business — whether it’s a pub, discotheque, orchestra bar, massage centre, beauty parlour or anything. But the younger generation is attracted to all these places, particularly discos. And they are in dangerous situations.
In a space that is 1,000 sq ft, only 166 people can be permitted and in 500 sq ft, only 77; on the basis of this the license is issued to discos. These places permit more than 500 people to enter! They are so thickly populated. Then in case of an emergency, what will happen? There will be nothing less than a stampede.
Secondly, they are playing mischief. Let’s say if they are supposed to allow 50 couples, they only allow 25 couples. Then they allow 25 single girls to enter for free and they allow 25 stag. The ratio has been maintained, but then who are these 25 girls inside? Who are they?
Err... single women who want to go get a drink at a club!
No… I can register cases towards each and every disco in this city for indulging in immoral activities!
Why were those girls taken to a rehab centre from Madness, Khar?
There were 16 girls and 107 boys. What is this ratio? We had sent our bogus customer to pick up the girls… Rs 500, Rs 1,400, Rs 2,000… We have arrested 12 people — one manager, one cashier, three to four stewards, four from the management and two pimps.
How can you say those girls are involved in immoral activities?
One, we sent bogus customers to engage the girls, either directly, through the management, stewards or pimps. Secondly, if they had come to the disco, why were all of them carrying spare outfits? Why?
Some girls do that, because they have to change into something casual before returning to their homes or whatever.
That’s no reason… The third reason is the ratio. And fourth, we have documentary evidence that the management had the numbers of all the girls, for what? Why would we brand someone as a prostitute? We have saved these girls from this dirty business.
Do female officers always accompany you on your raids?
We make sure lady officers, constables or some ladies from an NGO are with us. We take care of that. We try to.
What about other clubs/bars that don’t have a bad reputation, why are they being targeted?
Under the pretext of licenses, they are involved in immoral activities. Just having a license is not sufficient.
There is little to do in this city for a certain generation. Those thousands on that Facebook page want to know why that option is slowly diminishing.
They don’t know that they are risking their lives. Emergencies don’t come daily. There are discotheques that have been established on either first floors and in basements, when they are not supposed to. They have been permitted to establish them on the ground floor. Whose life is at risk then? They don’t understand. I have not disturbed any customer visiting at a disco. I am just taking action against establishments that are violating the rules.
These rules have been set in 1960. Don’t you feel they’re redundant?
No. How they can be outdated?
You don’t feel the overcrowding rule should be amended?
The corporation has decided that ratio, not the police.
But that’s what everyone is asking for, a change in these laws…
Under no circumstances will the Police Commissioner allow overcrowding! That is the main issue. There are many discos which function within the parameters of this rule. We don’t disturb them.
Doesn’t it make sense to have a special party zone like a BKC?
That is not our purview.
What’s the overcrowding charge?
The legal position of overcrowding is that the Police Commissioner is authorised to form rules for conducting establishments when they are public places, as per section 33 of the Mumbai Police Act. The commissioner of police is empowered to frame some rules. Now some 250 rules have been framed in 1960. We are bound by those rules. Why do patrons of your age want to rush to these crowded places? For what? Because we want to; trains and buses are severely overcrowded and can pose as security threats. The clubs are packed because there aren’t many options left.
Everybody wants admission in St Xavier’s College, what can be done? The seats are limited.
What do you feel is the solution?
So far as overcrowding is concerned, establishments should allow patrons to enter as per what they have been permitted. Second, they should establish their premises as per the rules; you need two to three entrances and two to three exits, get those. At least if you have one big entry, then have one big exit.
If the deadline is pushed further like Delhi, then maybe Mumbai’s entire crowd doesn’t have to rush to the bar between 10 pm and 1.30 am. Crowds may disperse.
(Says nothing) Deadline has always been 1.30 am.
But how is the solution to get them to shut down, permanently or temporarily?
We are not asking them to shut down. These people generate revenue for the government. No official wants to put a spoke into that running wheel. If I go about stopping these places, how will the government run? But they have been issued the licenses under some rules and they have to obey them.
A majority of the crowd visiting discos are girls, from various parts of the country, who stay here alone as PGs, residents or in hostels. Their close relatives or parents do not monitor their day-to-day activities. I have seen places where some ladies are not in a position to walk out from these establishments after 1.30 am. Who is going to monitor this?
Some places might be shady, but every place isn’t.
You mention the places and I will be there to show you the immoral activities taking place there. You tell me where you go?
No thank you, don’t want those shut down too.
(ACP DHOBLE has been quoted verbatim)
“No licensee shall admit, to any part of the auditorium, a greater number of persons than the maximum authorised in the license. They have to make sure the maximum is not exceeded, more particularly to facilitate checking by the police at any time. The licensee shall issue tickets bearing serial numbers, date and time on the foil and conter foil,” says Dhoble.
‘It’s bloody sad’
On April 28, Salman Khan did his bit. He tweeted, “Went fr dinner at 12 n most of the places in bandra were shut n nite clubs shut at 1230 , boring bandra, its bloody sad. Bandra used to b so much fun, v r done vit work by 10 reach hm at 11 work out n after that if v wanna chill etc every thing is shut. So sad fr the youth aree my father who is 76 has dinner at 1230 , not fair na. Did nt have dinner last nite, sub toh band tha na. Haji ali juice center shuts at abt 12? Wow . Dint kno that, now that's really sad,wonder y ? used to have juice n pizza's at 5am. (sic)”.