Chandigarh babus indulge in moral policing

That the powers that be in our country are control freaks is an axiomatic truth. The Chandigarh administration’s policy, ‘Controlling of Places of Public Amusement, 2016,’ is a testimony to the bureaucrats’ perverted, sexist, medieval, and misogynistic mindset.

The new rules aim to regulate the city’s nightlife of which, according to the bureaucrats, anti-national elements are also a part. Nightclubs and discotheques, with “scantily dressed women,” have been cited as a threat to national security. The new policy, which was implemented on April, stipulates that bars should shut at 12 midnight; earlier, they could open till 2 a.m.

The new policy provides for a nodal committee—headed by the Deputy Commissioner and comprising municipal corporation (MC) Commissioner, Chandigarh Police SSP, Health Services Director, and excise and taxation Commissioner as members—which can deny permission for business operations. One ground for this denial could be the “exhibition or advertisement of scantily dressed women” and “indecency.” Further, anything “seditious and likely to excite political discontent” can also attract the ire of babus.

Typically, “scantily dressed women” or “indecency” have been left undefined. “It’s moral policing. How do you define a scantily dressed woman or being indecent? It is all subjective. What you may find indecent, I may find innocent. The administration should not reject permissions on such parameters at least,” Manish Goyal, a city-based restaurateur, was quoted as saying to The Times Of India (April 20).

Actually, it is worse than that, for undefined phrases in the rulebook open up many a window of opportunity for discretion and rent-seeking.

The UT administration points out to the Punjab & Haryana High Court order which had sought a policy to regulate the operations of bars and restaurants. The order followed a number of violent incidents at nightclubs.

It is double whammy for the people of Chandigarh: they suffer the poor law and order situation; and then their sphere of liberty gets encroached up. Concomitantly, the cops and administration benefit because of their dereliction of duty: now they have the powers to torment club-owners as well as their guests. No bad deed goes unrewarded in our country.