Taking cue from Kamala Mills fire, Maharashtra government proposes to ban hookah bars
Learning its lesson from the Kamala Mills fire that claimed 14 lives, the state government tabled a bill in the legislative Assembly on Tuesday to ban hookah bars in the state. The amendment proposed in the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) is on the lines of the ban imposed by the Gujarat government last year.
The amendment has the provision of imprisonment for a term ranging between one to three years and a fine from Rs50,000 to Rs1 lakh. The bill has proposed to insert a section 4A in the COTPA, clearly stating that no person either on his own or on behalf of any other person can open or run any hookah bar in any place including the eating house. The amendment has also made the offence non-cognisable.
The amendment gives the power to designated officers of the police to seize any material in hookah bars. The government in its statement has said that the bill was initiated in view of the mushrooming of hookah bars in cities like Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nagpur and other cities. It also has stated that school and college-going children are attracted to these parlours, which are generally located close to educational institutions.
The Home department was initially considering regulating the hookah parlours by making changes in the COTPA, but the Kamala Mills fire forced it to change its stand and ban the parlours. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also heads the home department, had given directions to bring an amendment for a blanket ban instead of regulation. Hindustan Times had reported on January 11 about the government plan to ban the parlours.
Burning coal used for a hookah had led to the fire at 1Above and Mojo’s Bistro on December 29. Fourteen people had died of suffocation due to the fire that completely gutted the pubs at Kamala Mills.
Though there are no official figures available of the hookah parlours operational in the state, according to rough estimates, there are 400 to 500 such parlours in Mumbai and Pune respectively.
“COTPA definition does not have the term hookah and the parlours have been contending that they do not serve tobacco in the hookah, pushing them out of the gamut of the legislation. By including hookahs in the Act, they can now be banned in today’s forms,” an official said.
Once passed by both the Houses of the legislature, the amendment will need assent of the President and it may take at least few more months for the actual implementation. “With successful implementation in Gujarat since July 2017, we have a fair chance of smooth sailing of the amendment,” the official said.