While the Mumbai suburban police seem to be very busy with several other pressing matters, illegal hookah palours are flourishing in Mumbai suburbs.
According to an IndiaNewsNet.IN SURVEY, there are over 600 illegal hookah palours in suburban Mumbai – both in the western and eastern suburbs, which are doing brisk business and even openly advertising the same on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other similar social media platforms, says Editor – Investigations, Flynn Remedios.
The hookah palours also buy cell phone contact number data and Whats App messages in bulk to youth who are regular hookah palour customers. “This is all very big business. The minimum investment starts from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh and well-maintained hookah bars can do business of Rs One Lakh per day,” says an insider, adding that some hookah bars in Mumbai. which also sell food and foreign liquor do about Rs 5 lakh on good days.
One such agent Mukesh Durani from Lokhandwala in Andheri West who “sells” cell phone contact numbers data of hookah consumers in the suburbs charges Rs 25,000/- for his database which consists of about one lakh numbers of regular hookah users.
We contact Bangur Nagar and Malad police stations for their comments. While Sr Inspector of Malad police station Sudhir Mahadik did not even respond to our messages and calls, Sr Inspector of Bangur Nagar police station Santosh Bhandari refused to comment on the issue. He however agreed that hookah bars and palours are operating in his area and the police are trying to rein them in.
DCP zone XI Vikram Deshmane did not respond to our SMS message seeking a comment on the menace of illegal hookah bars in the area.
According to the IndiaNewsNet.IN Survey there about 60 illegal hookah palours operating in the Goregaon-Malad-Malwani area alone.
“They (hookah bars) sell hard liquor and tobacco products to teenagers and minors. No statutory warnings (as required by law) regarding the use of tobacco and alcoholic products by minors are displayed at the entry and exits. Many places do not have any licenses at all. The police are under tremendous political pressure not to do the moral policing part. Very often high class prostitution rackets are also run from such illegal hookah joints and even college students indulge in such call girl rackets to earn a quick buck to pay for their lavish lifestyle,” says a former Mumbai police commissioner.
Many politicians or their relatives and friends are involved in this illegal activity and the police are under pressure not to act in such cases. According to a senior police official, “the moment we raid a place, we begin to get calls from senior politicians and even our senior police officers requesting us to fall back and return without making arrests. In such cases are hands are tied. We have tried to reign in the errant hookah palour owners and operators,” but we are unable to do so effectively as there is a lot of political interference.”
Anti-tobacco crusader and cancer surgeon Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi as quoted in the Times of India last year during a raid, said: “Hukka parlors continue to mushroom in the city illegally, despite orders from Supreme Court and High courts. The SC order specifically directed parlours to serve hookah in an enclosed area, where no food is served. But it is blatantly violated,” he said. The Malad place too was violating the norms. Last year a hookah parlour owner from Malad was booked under the stringent sections of the recently amended Juvenile Justice Act for selling the flavoured tobacco product to two minors.
The Social Service Branch of the Mumbai police had raided the Sagar Mehfil Hookah Parlour near Dalmiya College in Malad. The owner was booked for offering hookah to two minors in the parlour, besides employing a child to serve it. The police team also seized hookah accessories and supplies from the shop. However, within 3 months after the raid, two other hookah palours sprang up in the Dalmiya College vicinity.
“The kids are getting misled that hookah does not have tobacco. Even if there is no tobacco, kids are exposed to poisonous carbon mono oxide in a closed chamber,” added Chaturvedi. He added that the stringent JJ act was a need of the hour as Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) was proving to be less effective in curbing the menace of tobacco use among minors.
Palours in the Goregaon-Malad belt are in direct contravention of SC guidelines. Not only is food and drink served along with hookah in the same place or enclosure, some of the joints do not even have a liquor license. There are no warning posters regarding dangers of the use of tobacco and there is no ID proof checking to ascertain the age of hookah consumers.
IndiaNewsNet.IN reporters visited several hookah palours in the Malad-Goregaon belt, pretending to be customers. At a place called Tully Gully at Evershine Nagar, several young girls were seen consuming hookah late into the night many of them clearly underage. There was a parking problem as well outside Tully Gully because of the Metro work which has caused the space on the Link Road to be almost halved.
A senior police official from Malad police station on condition of anonymity said, “When we raid the illegal palours, the influential bar owners and even hookah consumers, who are very media savvy, accuse us of Moral Policing and playing party poopers. Hence, the Mumbai police have been going slow in attacking Mumbai night life as our political bosses have also asked us not to harass citizens enjoying their leisure.”
But what about minors consuming hookah at such joints, we ask him? He has no reply but only nods his head to show his helplessness.
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