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Rediff.com  » News » Vote at 18, but enter dance bars only at 21

Vote at 18, but enter dance bars only at 21

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Last updated on: February 26, 2004 13:22 IST

If you are 18 years old you can vote, get a driver's license, watch an 'A' certificate movie and even get married, provided you are a girl.

But for the Maharashtra government 18 is not the right age for entering dance bars, discotheques and pubs.

The state government notification issued on Wednesday after raids on 60 odd dance bars in the city pegs the age for entry at 21. The notification threatens 'strict action' against those bars violating the age restriction. The 'strict action' ranges from heavy fines to cancellation of licences.

"The ban, which is mandatory under the Bombay Prohibition Act, will be implemented stringently from April 1," the state Excise Minister Anil Deshmukh said.

On Tuesday night the Mumbai Police had raided nearly 60 dance bars and arrested 1,661 people, including 792 girl performers.

"This is ridiculous," said Manjeet Singh Sethi, president of the 'Fight for the Rights of Bar Owners Association'.

"A person at the age of 18 has a right to vote and the girls in our country can also get married. So, I fail to understand why they can't enter a beer bar? After all at the age of 18 any person knows what is good or bad for him. By doing so the government is violating the basic human right of an 18 year old," he said. 

The government in its order also said all dance bars and pubs named after gods and goddesses should change it with immediate affect.

Dance bars, especially, have always been at the centre of controversy in Mumbai. Many question the moral basis of the government in allowing these bars to function, where young women dance and entertain customers till the wee hours of morning.

Amid protests the government had restricted the timing of many bars to 1:30 am and anyone found running his bar beyond that time is liable to be arrested.

"We have always followed the guidelines of the government. We have never violated the law. But the government is always looking an excuse to interfere in our business thus creating problems for the dance bar owners," said Sethi.

Running a dance bar is an expensive proposition. An owner has to pay Rs 250,000 per annum to the state government as licence fee. Besides the owner also has to pay Rs 30,000 as monthly fee and another Rs 15,000 to the Mumbai Police Commissioner's office.

"We provide so much money to the exchequer but still the government is always imposing new rules and regulations on us. Besides this we have to pay hafta (extortion money) to policemen and local goons for running our business. There are 1,250 bars in Mumbai city and nearly 80,000 lives are directly dependable on these bars. All dance bar owners are now meeting in two days and if the government does not stop harassing us we will have no other option but to go on an indefinite strike," he said.

Are you old enough to party?

Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai
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