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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 11:48 GMT
Bombay's 'dancing' bars raided
The chance to see Bollywood dances attracts many men to the bars
More than 50 beer bars have been raided in a major crackdown in the western Indian city of Bombay.

Police say they arrested at least 1,500 bar girls, employees and customers in the overnight operation.

Beer bars in Bombay, also called Mumbai, are not illegal, but some of them are alleged to act as a front for prostitution.

It is said to be a thriving industry which brings together bar owners, hoteliers and traffickers.

Dancing barmaids

Most of the beer bars, many of them grubby cubby holes dotting the city, hire girls to dance for their clients.

They are an integral part of Bombay's thriving nightlife and attract a wide-ranging clientele - from working-class males to high-flying business executives.

Police said the raids were conducted to crack down on prostitution and obscenity at the bars. Over 700 dancing girls were arrested.

"It is the first raid ever [on the bars] on such a large scale," senior Bombay police official Javed Ahmed told the BBC.

Some of the bars were also operating beyond their permitted closing time, and selling alcohol without requisite licenses, a senior police official said.

The police are contemplating action against officers who turned a blind eye to the illegal goings-on, the official said.

Tips row

The dancing bar girls, the subject of a recent popular Bollywood film, have protested against their working conditions in the past.

In 1998, they took to the streets after a row over tips and working hours.

The barmaids alleged that bar-owners often keep back a sizeable amount of the tips earned by dancing girls and waitresses - and beat them up if they seek better jobs elsewhere.

They also protested against the right-wing Hindu Shiv Sena party, then in power in the city, which introducing the ban on late-night shifts for women in 1997.

When protests threatened to snowball into a major controversy, the authorities struck back by ordering the closure of all pubs and bars before midnight.

The decision not only took much fun out of the famed Bombay night life, but also affected business for bar owners.

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29 Oct 03  |  South Asia
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19 Jun 03  |  South Asia
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25 Dec 98  |  South Asia

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