August 25, 2005Public Policy

No party state

Bangalore’s prudish conscience-keepers strike again

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

City authorities in Bangalore have taken it upon themselves that its citizens must stop partying by 11:30 pm. And that’s not because the stagecoach will turn back into a pumpkin. It is because the city authorities feel that the unregulated growth of dance bars’ will endanger the moral values of a city that was once a pensioner’s paradise (via TriNetre).That it is now a city with global business interests spanning all major time zones seems to have been lost on a state government that seems determined to do its best to damage Bangalore’s growth.

The details are even more bizarre — deejays will be forced to play classical music to prevent people from dancing. Die-hard partygoers who disregard the city’s laws are liable to be arrested. Resources of the city police, better spent tackling serious crime, keeping the streets safe and the traffic flowing, will now be used to prevent otherwise law-abiding citizens from incriminating themselves. Crooked cops must be rubbing their hands in glee as this will allow them to share’ some of the prosperity that the IT industry has brought to the city.

It is not as if Bangalore has no real problems. Instead of confronting serious problems like infrastructure and pollution that threaten to undermine the city’s future, the ragtag outfit that passes for a government in Karnataka state has chosen to legislate on what is the right time to stop dancing. The media has dubbed this the Talibanisation’ of Bangalore. It is not wrong. It does not matter whether restrictions on personal liberties are placed by a theocratic regime or a democratic one with an prudish sense of morality that it intends to impose on the people. It does not even matter what the excuse is — if late night partygoers break the law, they should be caught and punished. If noise is a concern, then those noisy clubs can be asked to stop the noise from leaking out into the public. Asking people and clubs to stop dancing is a crude measure that only befits the Taliban.

Bangalore’s conscience-keepers have been around for a while. In the late 1980s they lamented the mushrooming of pubs selling (rather good) draught beer. In the early 1990s, when Bangalore was among the first Indian cities to embrace globalisation, farmers associations’ registered their unhappiness with Kentucky Fried Chicken by vandalising its outlets. These causes have since lost their appeal among the moral brigade. The ban on late-night dancing will join this list of absurdities. But the Bangalore of 21st century is not the pensioner’s paradise of yesteryears. It cannot allow its society and economy to be dictated by the persuasions and idiosyncracies of its dogmatic politicians, who at best, enjoy an equivocal electoral mandate.

Like Mumbai, Bangalore is suffering from step-motherly (of the Cinderella sort) governance at the hands of state politicians who wield undue power over the city. Constitutional rearrangements may help, but like in the case of Mumbai, Bangalore’s residents, even those who do not have voting rights, have to be more pro-active in matters that concern them. This story too has a fairy godmother — a few million of them, in fact. If only they would care.

Related Links: Ravikiran on the Dharam Singh government’s apathy.

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On the politics of consensus
Another look at the no party state

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