Most of these establishments are flouting the rules that came into effect last year.
The ban on hookah parlours and on restaurants and bars serving hookah in the national capital is going up in smoke as most of these establishments here are openly flouting the rules that came into effect last year.
Hookah, which not only poses serious health hazards but also severe threat of fire hazards in these restaurants and bars due to the flammable ingredients used in their preparation and serving, are being sold and served despite the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banning the sale and service of hookahs in all bars and restaurants in Delhi.
The rules are being flouted so openly that one does not have to go to any of the interiors of Delhi to find a restaurant or bar serving hookah, which consists of nicotine and is lit by charcoal. Connaught Place, in the heart of the national capital, has now become one of the most sought after party places for youngsters, and hookahs are being openly served in several cafés and bars without any fear or hesitation.
A three-member bench of the NGT, headed by then Chairman and Justice Swatanter Kumar, had issued a notice to the Delhi government and other agencies in Delhi last year, to crack down on hookah bars in Delhi, while hearing a petition filed by Rajouri Garden MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa.
The Delhi government had then directed the police and civic bodies to cancel the licences of the restaurants and pubs that were serving hookahs and the government, in its order, had said that smoking of hookah was not allowed even in the smoking zones, leave alone the non-smoking zones.
The municipal corporations and the Delhi police that is responsible to crack down on these restaurants illegally serving hookahs, have been able to do little to stop this menace ever since the ban was put in place.
A senior spokesperson from the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) told this correspondent, “Yes, hookah bars are banned in Delhi and no eatery in Delhi is allowed to serve hookah in their premises. It is the responsibility of the local police to crack down upon them and implement the order.”
On trying to contact Madhur Verma, DCP for New Delhi, The Sunday Guardian could not get a response from him despite repeated calls and messages to his telephone number.
Not only in the New Delhi area, even in places outside the Delhi University’s south campus in Satya Niketan, several eating joints have been serving hookahs to college going students who have found these hookah parlours to be their favourite hangout place during college breaks and post classes in the University.
Things do not stop here; several eateries, bars and restaurants across Delhi that this correspondent visited—like in Rajendra Place in Central Delhi, Dwarka in South West Delhi, Defence Colony and Greater Kailash in South Delhi—are still serving hookah to their guests. The North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) which was to carry out a survey last year to find out which places serve hookah, has still not carried out the survey and the corporation claims that they do not have any such data with them.
The spokesperson of the North civic body was also not aware of the same when The Sunday Guardian contacted him. Dr A.K. Bansal, Municipal Health Officer of the North Civic body, told this correspondent that he is not aware of any such restaurants serving hookah under the North Civic body, adding that his deputy is looking into this issue and he is not aware.
The Delhi Police’s licencing unit, which is responsible for handing out licences and renewing of licences to eateries and restaurants in Delhi, has also said that it is the responsibility of the local police and the district police authorities to ensure and implement the ban across the national capital.
Asif Mohammad Ali, DCP, Licensing unit, told this correspondent, “The licencing unit of the Delhi police does not renew licences and permit restaurants to serve hookahs in their premises. We have set rules on the basis of which eateries are given licences to operate in Delhi. If some restaurants and bars are serving hookahs, it is totally illegal and the local police along with the district head should take action and ensure a crackdown on all such restaurants and bars.”
Experts and doctors have also said that hookah has more harmful effect on the human body than cigarette. According to researchers and doctors, one hour of smoking hookah is equal to taking 200 puffs of cigarette; the smoke inhaled in an hour’s session of hookah is 100 times more than smoking one cigarette.
Dr Sai Kiran Chaudhury, Senior Consultant and HOD Pulmonology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the Delhi Heart and Lung Institute, told The Sunday Guardian, “Hookah is as harmful as cigarette and smoking of hookah can cause cancer and pulmonary diseases due to the high content of nicotine and other harmful carcinogenic substances present in them.”