A historic act, passed about five months ago in the Tamil Nadu Assembly to remove restrictions on the entry of dhoti-clad men into clubs, hotels, theatres and such public places, has failed to make pubs in Chennai amend their so called “club rules”. That the pub managements have been cocking a snook at the act came to light on the eve of Dhoti Day when a couple of men in dhoti were turned away at the gates itself.
Though the act came about in response to a public outcry over denial of permission for a dhoti-clad High Court judge to attend a meeting on the premises of an elite club, no one has bothered to check if the snooty dress regulations have been removed from the statutes of the clubs and pubs. As such dress codes smack of a colonial hangover, resentment over rules like those making it mandatory for men to wear shirts with collars and covered shoes have erupted periodically, generating public debates.
But in August 2014, the government put an end to debates, making it clear that no man in a dhoti can be denied entry into any public place. Yet, on the night of January 5, all pubs blatantly violated the five-month-old act. The police argument that they can act only when someone complained about it sounded specious. Will the police or other enforcement agencies say the same thing if commercial establishments—all of them are governed by a plethora of rules and regulations—violate any other law? What if some banned substance is peddled inside a pub? Will the narcotics control agencies wait for a complaint? What if the establishment is kept open beyond the stipulated hours? Will the cops crack down only if someone points it to them? When a pub is seen not respecting a government act at its entrance itself, why cannot we suspect more serious violations of other laws inside the ill-lit interiors?