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SOCIETY - DANCE BARS AND CRIME

 

Dance Bars: Dens of crime?

Our media editor goes berserk seeing the bar-ban breast beaters in Mumbai media, peddling manipulatory sob stories promoting the return of dance bars. 

BY OUR MEDIA EDITOR

2 September 2005: Today's Mumbai Mirror made me sit up and spill the coffee. I am used to the surreptitious campaign by the Mumbai media for the return of dance bars, but this one took the cake. This is a text-book case of how the media manipulates news and creates public opinion as it suits them. Let me explain.

For those who came in late, the Maharashtra government banned dance bars from August 15, 2005. From the moment the government announced the ban, newspaper readers here have seen a deluge of hogwash reports promoting dance bars under different guises. 

Today's Mumbai Mirror report goes like this:

Headline:

"PLEASE READ, MR RR PATIL"

The news below must be really shocking, says my sleep-starved brain - sleep-starved, not because I spent the last night showering ill-gotten money on pathetic dancers, but because I stayed up late night typing out some reports to earn a meagre living.

The story says that many dance bar waiters are turning to crime, since their source of livelihood has been affected by the bar ban. How sad! This is how it goes…

"The Mumbai police had always feared the closure of dance bars would lead to an increase in the city's crime rate. That fear now has a face -- first of the three pictures below.....

...The 21 year old turned to this new vocation after Diana Bar at Turbhe Naka, where he was a steward and earned Rs 8000 a month shut down."

The story narrates how a poor boy came to Bombay and found a job in a dance bar, only to be forced into crime once the bar shut down. He could not find another job, but he was recruited by another robber to join his gang. He gladly joined.

The story gets you thinking that poor unemployed waiters forced out of closing dance bars are taking to crime. Makes you feel bad and scared - Bad, because they are driven to crime from a harmless job. Scared, because you could be his next victim.

This is what you call opinion-building. Mumbai Mirror has successfully pushed the case for the return of dance bars. Opinion-building sob story in dim dance bar lighting stops there. Now, turn on the lights, so we can see the actual news.

The protagonist of the Mumbai Mirror story has been arrested for robbery. He was recruited by one Santosh Rai, who was a dance bar waiter-cum-criminal. Unlike what Mumbai Mirror would like us (and RR Patil) to believe, he took to crime in 2002, much much before Patil thought about the ban. How did Santosh Rai enter crime? He was recruited by one "Mini Gopal", a dance bar customer who also ran a gang of robbers. Santosh Rai has been committing robberies since 2002, and recruiting other dance bar waiters to this lucrative side-business.

I guess that's what is what you call a crime syndicate. A ganglord visits a dance bar, for whom the joint is a hunting ground for potential recruits. Some of the waiters join him for career advancement. They loot and burgle, and are later promoted as recruiting agents for more dance bar waiters. And it goes on and on. Some of these liveried burglars one day land up at our doorstep too. The morons that we are, we keep reading Mumbai Mirror while the waiter-burglar packs off with the booty.

This is not a one off-case. The Mumbai Mirror report details another case, when the ganglord is one chap called John Kumar alias Dolphin. He too used to run a gang of thieves, and used the dance bar as a recruiting ground. He hired the services of Ronnie Alex, who joined the robbers’ gang. Waiter-cum-burglar Ronnie looted a petrol pump, and made Rs 48,000. What a killing! He made a second dacoity attempt and was arrested. His poor family bailed him out, selling all their property. He promised to go home with them, but joined Santosh Rai's gang of robbers instead. He was arrested again. His romance with crime had nothing to do with RR Patil's bar ban - it was greed, plain and simple.

So, Mumbai Mirror itself gives us evidence of ganglords patronising dance bars and recruiting waiters, who in turn recruit more, even as they politely hand you a drink and fetch you change to shower on the dancers. 

Last week, Mumbai Mirror itself carried the news of a BARC scientist printing fake money to spend at dance bars. The story of stamp scam accused Abdul Karim Telgi spending Rs 70 lakh on a bar girl on a single night is now the stuff of legend. Added to this week's news on the Income Tax department arrest of a crorepati bar girl, perhaps we can make some inferences:

1. Criminals and gang leaders routinely visit dance bars
2. They shower their ill-gotten money on bar girls.
3. They use dance bars as a recruiting ground for more robbers.
4. These robbers burgle our homes.
5. Once they prove their expertise, they are promoted to recruit more.
6. They too burgle our homes.
7. Their poor families sell property to bail out the arrested liveried burglars.
8. The greedy burglars neither settle for dance bars nor go back to their anxious parents.
9. One day they are arrested.
10. People who run fake stamp papers patronise dance bars.
11. People who print counterfeit currency patronise dance bars.
12. Their ill-gotten money helps these dance bar girls lead a tax-free existence, till the taxman knocks.
13. One day the cops arrest tax-free dancers, robber-waiters, stamp scam accused and fake currency-wallahs.
14. The media would like us to believe that all this is because of RR Patil and the dance bar ban.

Nothing could be further from the truth. But the unstated media campaign to bring back dance bars goes on. They even get cops to go on record that the crime rate is going up because of the bar ban. Sample this:

“Cops admit the spike in Mumbai's crime graph is linked to the thousands of waiters and stewards that have lost their jobs following the dance bar ban. Till last July 30 , 189 robberies were registered. In the same period this year, 218 robberies have been registered -- a jump of 20 per cent. While there were 21 cases of dacoities last year till July end, in the same period this year, 29 cases have been registered. “We had arrested one Rajesh Gowda a few days ago who was a waiter earlier but became a robber subsequently,” Police Inspector from Crime Branch said.”

Really? The anonymous cop says that robberies till July last have increased from 189 last year, to 218 now, a jump of 20%. And the rise in crime has been linked to the closure of dance bars. Ignore the part that 189 to 218 is a 15.5% rise, NOT 20%, the fact remains that dance bars were closed only on August 15. Those who lost their jobs on August 15 cannot be held responsible for crimes committed till July 30, if we admit the Mumbai Mirror argument that waiters tun to crime on losing jobs. Or did they start turning to crime much earlier, as the rest of the story proves?

The journalist's aversion to percentage figures is complicated by his tendency to swallow whatever his source thrusts down his throat. Newspapers print such concocted "news" and expect foolish readers to gulp them down.

Among the deluge of demand to bring back dance bars, truth lies rotting. Media conveniently glosses over the fact these criminals took to crime before the ban came into effect, and that crime lords over many of them. But we would rather not look that way; let's just stay focused on that female twisting over there in dim light. Let's not have arc lights here. Nor truth. It's time to dance!

BY OUR MEDIA EDITOR

God save the Malayalee

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