While media may screech again about moral policing with Maharashtra government’s decision on closure of dance, here’s a grassroot insight

Voices Saturday, June 14, 2014 - 05:30
By Vinita Deshmukh  If farmers’ suicide is agonizingly familiar in Maharashtra; their sudden riches to rags story is also equally common. Blame it on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) or Information Technology (IT) Parks (IT) wherein land acquisition results in farmers, and there are hundreds of them, receiving lump sum money. Maharashtra is the leading state which has allocated the maximum SEZs – over 200 of them, accounting to over 1, 50,000 acres of land for the proposed zones. Obviously, land acquisition is the biggest challenge for the government/private agency. The trend of compensation directly to the farmer began a couple of decades back in Hinjewadi in Pune, when the first ever Software Technology Park of India (STPI) was being developed sometime in the early 2000. Farmers simply jumped at this new-found prosperity. They had never seen so much money come in their hands, but it was a money, which most could not handle, due to financial illiteracy. They splurged it so quickly that they sunk like quick sand. Therefore, after acquisition of two phases of STPI, the third and fourth phases witnessed large scale agitation by farmers through violent protests. That’s because, farmers who were compensated in the earlier two phases, simply blew away the money by buying cars, fancy clothes, and yes, on entertainment in Tamasha theatres and (subsequently, on dancing bars). The farmer fraternity realized the few acres of land that they owned and which was giving sustained revenue, came to a complete standstill. There are hundreds of such broke and broken farming families across Maharashtra, particularly around Pune which accounts to the highest number of SEZ zones – around 53 with Mumbai coming a distant second. Sporadic protests notwithstanding, land acquisition continues as does one-time compensation in the form or cash. There have been discussions over providing compensation in a way that the farmers stores his money and grows it, but it hasn’t as yet materialized. Over the years, while I have been travelling in rural areas of Western Maharashtra for stories, the tale of broken families due to SEZ has been consistent. Patronising Tamasha theatres or dance bars and squandering away thousands of rupees in one single night is common in these sleazy entertainment joints. When money comes like a miracle, the objective is to flaunt it. Driven by addiction of liquor and. lured by the dancing bars, the temporarily rich farmer, particularly his young generation men, indulge in these vices. Traditionally, visiting the Tamasha theatre has been a Zamindari kind of status symbol in Maharashtra, where the lady dancer lures him by fanning his ego and making him feel like a king. Dance bars are only a modern version of these, to be experienced, well facilitated by quick money by selling land. The social menace of dance bars in urban areas where the middle class youth has been lured to the extent of self-destruction is another story. For the rural Maharashtra though, many a denizen would be relieved with Home Minister R R Patil’s decision to close dance bars in all restaurants and hotels of all categories. Now, the question of what would happen to the 75,000 bar dancers is liking asking what will happen to the workforce in tobacco industries if gutka is banned! Is there an answer? The author, Vinita Deshmukh is a journalist, writer, RTI columnist and activist.  The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability on the same.
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