The Nightlife Issue: Why India Cannot Afford to Let its Businesses Sleep

night-lifeMumbai has always known as the city which never sleeps, and it seems its administration has finally woken up to this by announcing a lift on the 1:30 AM curfew with new ‘nightlife zones’.

Mumbaikars can now grab a drink or bite to eat long past the midnight hour, a freedom we ought to consider vital for India’s place in the new global economy. Of course, nobody could ever tell Mumbai when to sleep, and food was always available after midnight. The problem was that this was often an unregulated economy.

Consider Bangalore, Hyderabad or any of the other IT Boom towns, who have their economies fueled by an ever-growing night shift workforce that caters to clients across the globe. The lack of 24/7 rights in these cities means such employees oft make do with the food in office, or employ takeout before starting their shifts.

But there are always those restaurants that enjoy the permission to serve food past 12, such as the Empire Restaurants in Bangalore. Such selective permits only encourage monopoly, and don’t make for good capitalism.

What the administration has failed to understand by abiding to the idea of a ‘curfew’ is that the hours after 12 belong to another economy altogether. Work does not stop at 12 AM; it is merely carried over to the next day, or done alone at home with only the internet for company. If people are forced to find their evening entertainment in homes instead of establishments, it is a vital loss of revenue for both the state and the private sector, notwithstanding the citizen himself.

Manipal was one town that enjoyed the status of being a 24/7 animal. In what was almost admirably a free market of the night, there restaurants served fresh food (and cigarettes) until 4:30 in the morning.

The scale of options on offer meant that one had menus of food on offer, and as competition grew, the menus got better. Getting a sandwich and cold coffee while pulling an all nighter in the Manipal heat should be considered humanitarian aid! A sad contrast to the IIT-ian who makes do with kettle-brewed Maggi at 3 AM (not to demean Maggi in any way of course, I remain eternally grateful to this wonder-food).

Sadly, this unregulated economy could not continue forever, and a subsequent police crackdown on the same means that Manipalites now go hungry to bed (those that sleep past midnight that is). Worse still are reports that the police harass students travelling past midnight, demanding a valid reason for being out on the streets so late.

The police is known to do this in India, but it escapes me as to why citizens permit this draconian measure. As a citizen of a free country, it is my right to walk the streets at any hour I please. We surrender so many of our rights to the state sometimes that we forget what we really have remaining.

I understand the law and order issue, and the police is right in that they need more manpower to be able to effectively police the streets at night. Moreover, it’s true that drunk driving or illicit activity should not go unchecked at night. But I think it is time this paradigm shift in policing ability happened. India can no longer afford to sleep the nights away. As a market driven economy, it should tear the businessmen in us that we lose up to ten hours of business potential every night that the streets stay locked up.

 If nothing, it is at least time we had 24/7 supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol bunks. If India can be open to business to the rest of the world, its high time we left our own doors more accessible to our working class.

Varun Ramesh

Image Source: The Viewspaper