Bengaluru: Karnataka is contemplating banning hookah bars in the state, Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said here on Tuesday in the Assembly.
"Few hookah bars operate as part of restaurants while some are standalone in cities such as Bengaluru and Mysuru. Youngsters throng these places. We are seriously thinking to ban hookah bars," Bommai told the Legislative Assembly during Question Hour.
He added that Karnataka was planning to study other states that have banned hookah bars. "We need the cooperation of urban local bodies such as BBMP as they are the licensing authorities," he said, adding that authorities had booked over 70 cases against hookah bars in Bengaluru alone so far this year.
Bommai was responding to a question by Congress' Jayanagar MLA Sowmya Reddy during the Question Hour in the Assembly. She alleged that drugs were available in hookah bars and cafes. "Karnataka needs to have sustained action against drugs. It shouldn't become seasonal when it gets media coverage only once in a while," she said.
JD(S) Magadi MLA A. Manjunath also complained that his constituency had seen mushrooming of hookah bars and cafes after the police started a crackdown on drugs in Bengaluru.
Bommai assured the Assembly that the government's 'war on drugs' will continue. "Drug abuse is present from slums to the elites, educated to the illiterates," he said.
"Drug abuse can be seen from slums to even among educated people as an addiction. It is a family issue and we are taking it seriously. We are constantly fighting this. We are going after synthetic drugs found in chocolates and tablets and we are looking to root out how they are coming. We are constantly tracking the dark web and the drug peddlers," he explained.
The minister contended that they (authorities) were constantly raiding and filing cases on hookah bars. "We will discuss with Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) authorities and bring in the law for this."
Bommai added that in order to make the ban successful, there has to be cooperation between the state government and urban local bodies like the BBMP as they are the licensing authority.
"War on drugs should be a people's movement and teachers and parents should be careful about their students and wards. I urge everyone to join hands in this war against drugs," Bommai appealed.
He added that earlier, only ganja was seized. "But, we are going after synthetic drugs in the form of tablets and chocolates," he said, adding that the number of cases against drugs has gone up from 127 in 2016 to 2,786 in 2020.
This is not the first time that hookah bars have come under the lens of the political class. In 2017, BBMP corporators had also demanded winding up of hookah bars for allegedly allowing minors in their establishments.
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