Monday, 30 July 2012

Reclaiming the city!

Recently the Mumbai police have been very active in hogging the limelight thanks to it overzealous Social Security department. The raids on popular nightlife destinations in the city have resulted in a lot of hue and cry across the media. These raids have found both support and protest from different sections of the society. A bunch of Mumbaikars have begun a movement called ‘Mumbai Unite’ to protect the citizens of this cosmopolitan city. They say it’s not about the protecting the nightlife, it’s about fighting to protect the fundamental rights of citizens and protecting them from the khaki clad fanatics.

Mumbai’s image of a cosmopolitan city has taken a hit thanks to these recent events. All of a sudden the police department seems to have woken up from its slumber and it started enforcing laws which are archaic and outdated. The city which is the face of a modern and resurgent India is governed by laws that date back to the days of British Raj! On one side we want to build a world class city, like the Dubai’s and Shanghai’s of world, and on the other side we are still running our city with an old, crumbling legal system. It’s a tussle between the ones trying to take the city into the future and those who want to hold on to the old ways. Such thinking is only dragging the city’s progress and is in a way responsible for the mess the city finds itself in.

The dreaded act that is being used to terrorize ordinary citizens is called the ‘Bombay Prohibition Act’. It is important to understand the provisions of this law to ensure that you don’t become a victim of it. The law enacted in 1949, says that any person in Mumbai who wishes to consume alcohol needs to carry a drinking permit. This drinking permit comes in the form of a Rs.5 one day permit and a Rs.1,000/- lifetime permit. A license holder is permitted to hold 12 units of alcohol at any time. Anyone found consuming alcohol without this permit is liable for a fine of Rs. 50,000 or 5 years in Jail or both! The trouble here is not only the law, but the way it is enforced and the practicalities of enforcing it!

If the objective of this law is to dissuade the janta from consuming alcohol, then we are sorry to say that a Rs.1000/- permit is not a big deterrent for anyone. And how in the world are the police or anybody going to keep a check on the people consuming alcohol in the safe confines of their homes? What about visitors, will they be handed over a permit at the airport? In a corrupt country like ours this is just another, rather powerful, tool in the hands of those who will go to any lengths to exhort money out of innocent citizens. And the Mumbai police have been using this tool very effectively to harass ordinary citizens. If the intention really was to enforce the law then their targets would not have only been the swanky pubs of Bandra. There are numerous places where one can consume alcohol and not all of those are in Bandra!

So how do the people who have gathered under the banner of ‘Mumbai Unite’ plan to fight for the fundamental rights of Mumbaikars? Mumbai Unite, a group formed by concerned Mumbaikars, who have no allegiance to any political party, believes that if the establishment expects citizens to follow the rules then they must first educate people about these rules. After all, before these raids began how many of us were even of such an Act? Raiding places and harassing common citizens is not the way to ensure that laws are followed. Treating women with disrespect by calling them ‘Prostitutes’ just because their way of dressing doesn’t fit into your myopic definitions of culture and tradition, is definitely not the mark of sanity. Doing drugs is definitely wrong, but criminalizing people for it is not the way to solve this menace. It is problem which needs to be solved by creating more awareness among the youth.

Mumbai Unite has come out with a petition asking the establishment to ensure that these raids are stopped and the perpetrators behind these ghastly acts be brought to justice. It seeks to invoke the same law that the Social Service Branch of Mumbai Police refers to, ‘The Bombay Prohibition Act’. Sections of this act clearly specify how the policemen should behave when conducting searches, and from what we have been hearing about these raids, the police’s behaviour is in complete violation of the law. Using these sections of the law, the petition demands action against these so called moral police. In addition to asking people to sign up the petition, Mumbai Unite will soon go knocking on the doors of MLA’s and corporator’s seeking their support for their petition. This move will surely put many a corporator’s and MLA’s in a fix, as they will have to choose sides now. They will have to let people know who they support, the citizens of their wards who voted to bring them to power or the police who have been troubling innocent citizens.

Mumbaikars, who are part of Mumbai Unite, do not deny the fact that rules should be followed; in fact they would be more than happy to follow rules. It is all about how suitable these rules are to our modern style of living and the way in which the police go about ensuring the enforcement of laws. There is no hiding from the fact that these rules are outdated and need an overhaul. And if you want to impose such rules then why target certain people, why not enforce these laws on everyone. Why only check cars for permits, why not check the people in the numerous celebrations that take place on the roads of Mumbai? Mumbai Unite just wants to make the establishment realize this simple fact. Mumbai Unite is on a mission to reclaim the city of Mumbai for its citizens and we hope that every Mumbaikar supports their cause.

To read the petition please follow this link -

For Mumbai Unite’s homepage -

1 comment:

  1. I've been following this issue in the paper. Mangalore had a similar problem recently - a private party was broken up by a right wing group who roundly abused people just for having a birthday party. Glad to see that people are fighting back!