We are being painted as villains, say residents after crackdown on pubs

‘It’s pub owners who are at fault, but they have tried to pitch musicians and employees against us’

Resident organisations that are at the forefront of the fight against “reckless commercialisation” of their areas said they were being painted as villains by erring pubs and restaurants that have been shut down owing to regulatory violations.

This comes after employees of various bars and restaurants assembled in front of Monkey Bar, a popular pub in Indiranagar, which shut its doors on Monday.

A coalition of resident welfare associations from several areas, including Indiranagar, Koramangala, J.P. Nagar, and Lavelle Road, have been fighting commercialisation for nearly five years now, but it is only recently that the authorities starting forcing establishments violating norms to shut shop. “It’s the pub owners who are at fault for housing their establishments and violating zonal regulations. In some cases, it’s the buildings they operate out of that violate norms. But they have tried to pitch musicians and now employees against us,” said Sneha Nandihal of I Change Indiranagar.

Residents who have to live with the rampant commercialisation of their once quiet neighbourhood are unhappy. “We are not against commercial establishments. But they have to function within the regulatory framework in a way that doesn’t disrupt the lives of residents,” said Sunita, from Shantinagar Residents’ Welfare Association.

In April 2018, commercial establishments lost a 13-year-long legal battle when the Supreme Court upheld ‘The Licensing and Controlling of Places of Public Entertainment (Bangalore City) Order 2005’ issued by the Bengaluru police.

This coupled with the High Court direction on illegal bars and pubs spurred the police into action. However, many establishments haven’t been able to get permits as the 2005 order stipulates seven clearances, including Occupancy Certificate or a No-Objection Certificate from the Fire and Emergency Services, which most of the establishments do not have.

Following the Kamala Mills fire at a rooftop bar in Mumbai, the Fire and Emergency Services also launched a crackdown by cutting electricity supply to several establishments. “Now that there is a crackdown on the ground, there is a push back. But residents are also stakeholders and our voices need to be heard,” said Ms. Nandihal.

RWAS say their campaign has slowly begun to show some results. However, noise pollution, the parking of vehicles in their bylanes, the spillover of revelry onto the streets till early morning, pressure on garbage management, and sewage network causing messy roads are still a reality, the associations say.


Lack of planning key cause, say experts

Commercialisation is often seen as an inevitable fallout of increased urbanisation. While urban planners agree that it is a natural process of urbanisation, they also argue that residents are key stakeholders, who have to be heard.

“There needs to be an acceptance of this process of urbanisation by residents. But that doesn’t mean commercial establishments should be given a free pass. We need to evolve an institution to navigate the crisis in a democratic manner,” said Mathew Idiculla, an urban policy expert.

Ward Committees and Area Sabhas, mandated by the 74th amendment to the Constitution, is the right institution for this, argue urban planners.

“In most of the western countries, planning happens bottom-up and not top-down like here. Residents decide on what to allow in their areas, say like a mall or an industry, during Local Area Planning. We need to institute a similar mechanism here and ward committees are the best starting point for such an exercise,” said a senior urban planner, who did not wish to be named.

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