The Karnataka government has decided to ban hookah bars after consulting the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the licensing authority. The state government said that it had already been planning to ban hookah bars when Home Minister Basvaraj Bommai announced it in the assembly on February 2, 2021.
“We have observed that some hookah bars in Mysuru, Bengaluru and Mangaluru are luring youngsters. It is not healthy. A new policy will be brought in with awareness programs for youth,” the minister said.
Answering BJP’s Mahantesh Kavatagimatha’s question during the Vidya Parishad’s question answer session, Bommai also said that drug consumption must be completely banned and drugs should be eliminated from society. He added that schools must monitor their students to ensure that there is no drug consumption on their premises, and if there is, the concerned governing body must be informed.
The minister also alleged that there is a drug trade happening at slums and drugs have been supplied from neighbouring states as well. Hence, they have decided to keep a close watch on Karnataka’s border districts. He also said that an anti-drug policy will be brought in and the state government is going to engage in talks with the Union government to amend the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
“The ban on hookah bars was implemented hastily and not properly enforced so we will bring in a new and proper policy to enforce it. We will not bow to pressure, the ban will be brought in,” Bommai added.
In February this year, the minister had said that drug abuse is present even among educated people and the government is taking this issue seriously and fighting it. He added that they have been finding synthetic drugs in chocolates and tablets and are trying to trace the drug peddlers.
The minister said that hookah bars have been raided and cases have been filed against those. “We are studying other states where hookah bars are banned. We will discuss with BBMP and bring in the law for this,” he said.
Basavaraj Bommai, who is also the Law Minister of Karnataka, said that there has been a significant rise in drug-related cases in the state. He stated that the cases have gone up from 167 in 2016 to 2,786 in 2020.
The minister stated that the ban will be successful only if the state government and urban local bodies like BBMP co-operate because the latter is the licensing authority for hookah bars. He also added that this is a people’s movement and encouraged people to “join hands in this war against drugs.”
This is not the first time the existence of hookah bars has come under the scanner. In 2017, BBMP corporators demanded shutting down hookah bars for allegedly allowing minors inside their establishments.
On February 26, 2021, the Jharkhand cabinet had passed an order to approve the ban of hookah bars in the state and those flouting the rules could face a prison sentence or a fine of Rs 1 lakh.