Mumbai: The Mumbai Police has rescued 17 girls during a raid at one of the dance bars in Andheri on Monday. The girls were found hidden in a secret room inside Deepa Bar, one of the popular dance bars in Mumbai.
The room had AC and ventilation and was stocked with food, water, and cold drinks for the girls to survive long hours.
The raid was conducted following complaints from an NGO that the bar was flouting COVID-19 protocols.
The complaint also mentioned that the bar was operating the whole night secretly.
Cops have sealed the bar and launched an investigation. An FIR has also been filed against the bar owners and 20 others.
Not the first time
This is not the first time that the Deepa Bar is in the news for the wrong reasons.
In 2005, it was linked with the Bollywood-cricketer-bookie-underworld nexus when it was found that one of their dancers Tarannum was acting as a conduit between bookies and cricketers.
Though it had fallen into disrepair in the years after, it revived under a new moniker - Deepa "orchestra" bar.
Here, a bevvy of non-singers is paraded and made to croon and sway to music played by a live band.
Maharashtra govt vs dance bars
Regulation of dance bars is a sensitive topic in conservative Maharashtra. The government had tried twice to ban them but to no avail.
In 2005, the then move to see dance bars banned was first struck down by the Bombay High Court, a verdict that was later upheld by the Supreme Court in July 2013.
Though the government tried to introduce the ban again in 2014 by an Ordinance, the apex court, in 2015, termed the move "unconstitutional" and allowed Mumbai dance bars to reopen.
Even amid the tussle with the Maharashtra government, dance bars continued to flourish in the state.
Mumbai alone has close to 700 dance bars while the rest of the state has 650 dance bars at its peak.
It is estimated that close to 75,000 girls are employed in these bars. In most cases than not, dance bars also operate as a front for prostitution.