Mall of infamy
Loud music, the presence of goodlooking girls and boys, getting high and giving in to one’s wild side, is what is attracting the young generation, especially teenagers, to the infamous 'night life' in Delhi and NCR.
For the past five years, the pub culture has entered the lexicon of Delhiites, but has also spiraled the crime rate in the city. The rapid modernisation of Gurgaon, especially the rising number of malls, often with more than three pubs and bars beneath a single roof, acts like a beacon for people in this impressionable age-group. As per records maintained by the licensing department of Delhi police, there are approximately 5,000 restaurants in Delhi, of which 700 have the licence to serve liquor. In Gurgaon, popularly known as Millennium City, there are 153 pubs and restaurants that have the licence to serve liquor. The licensing fee starts from Rs 6 lakh and goes upto Rs 30 lakh depending on the capacity of the restaurant/pub.
The most infamous bars in Gurgaon are located in Sahara Mall near MG (Mehrauli-Gurgaon, not Mahatma Gandhi) Road. These bars attract a large number of people, mostly those below the age of 30 years. Till March this year, there were five pubs, Prison, IPSA, The Last Chance, Ignite and Blue Eyes on the third floor of this mall, but three have been shut down.
'In July, Gurgaon police conducted a raid at the pub Buzzin Buddies, where 117 school students were found partying and consuming alcohol. In September another raid was conducted at a hookah bar that was being run illegally. In that raid too 24 minors were caught smoking hookah,' said Maheshwar Dayal, joint commissioner of police (Gurgaon).
A bar manager at one of the pubs spoke of the crime culture associated with pubs, bars and discotheques. 'Even though I manage a bar, I will still agree that this trend of spending evenings in a pub and getting drunk is in a way responsible for the increase in the number of crime cases. To increase the number of customers we are bound to hire more women staff. Their duty is to dance, serve drinks and attract the young crowd to our pub.'
Ritu (name changed), a woman employee said, 'We work here to earn more money. Apart from the salary, there are many options to earn extra. Sometimes, we lie to our parents and say that do part-time work at a BPO, along with our studies.'
A common problem faced by these women employees is that there is no drop home facility at night. 'Either we take auto-rickshaws or a lift from someone. Often this makes us vulnerable to criminal assaults,' said another woman employee.
In 2013, more than 10 cases of gang rape, molestation and assault on women pub employees was registered by Gurgaon police.
The management of Sahara Mall, that has remained the most controversial mall in Delhi-NCR, recently wrote a letter to the excise department requesting non-renewal of liquor licenses of bars and pubs at the mall. They have asked officials to act on their request from the next financial year.
Several steps have been taken to regulate visitors, but the management has failed in their endeavours. Since the pubs and bars in the mall is affecting the mall’s reputation, in early 2013, the management started closing the mall at 10 pm to discourage visitors to the pubs. But the dark and empty mall, with the open pubs, starting drawing in more objectionable characters.
In 2012, during the new year celebrations, Sahara mall hit the headlines when a couple was attacked and an attempt was made to abduct them. The girl was molested and when her partner intervened, he was beaten up.
Sameer Malhotra, a psychologist said, 'Many in the age group of 16-25 are being attracted to the clubs and bars. When they get addicted to it and they don't have money to enjoy the facility, they steal money to fund their evening outs. This is their first step into the world of crime.'
Crimes take place both inside and outside the pubs. 'Scuffles between groups, customers misbehaving with bouncers, assault on and molestation of female staff and customers - apart from the crime, there is lot of obscenity inside,' a bar manager said.
In many pubs and bars, drugs, cocaine and other narcotics are supplied illegally. Whenever the cops or officials of the excise department officials receive any such information, their license is cancelled and action is taken against the manager, along with the staff and the customers.
Describing the crime that takes place outside pubs, Dayal added, 'Drunken driving, gang rapes, rapes, molestation, and other crime against women often spills out of the pub.'