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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March 2005, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Maharashtra shuts dance-girl bars
Dance bar girls in Mumbai
The girls dance and customers often throw money
The Indian state of Maharashtra says it is closing its numerous dance bars because they are a breeding ground for crime and prostitution.

Only the state capital, Mumbai (Bombay) has been spared for now - pending further inquiries.

The state has about 1,500 dance bars employing more than 100,000 women who mostly dance Bollywood numbers.

The bar owners say the state government's accusations are baseless and that they will take legal action.

Mumbai's fate

Maharashtra's Home Minister RR Patil announced his decision to the state assembly.

"It has been seen that a lot of youths in these [rural] areas splurge money in these bars and indulge in crimes. On an immediate basis, the licences of these bars will be cancelled," Mr Patil said.

Bombay bar protest
Bar workers have staged protests before against police raids

The fate of Mumbai's bars is still to be decided.

Mr Patil said a committee was still assessing the matter and that a decision would be made soon, although he admitted the long tradition meant closing the bars would "not be easy".

The head of the Dance Bars Owners' Association, Manjeet Singh, told the BBC the government's decision was arbitrary and that legal action was under way.

The police have long regarded dance bars as venues for prostitution, although they are not illegal.

Officers conduct periodic raids, including one in Mumbai in August that drew a massive protest by most of the 60,000 bar girls in the city.

The girls usually dance to Bollywood songs in colourful dresses and customers often throw money at them.

"All we are doing is dancing to entertain people. Even women in music videos do that. But you don't say anything to them," one bar girl, Geeta Shetty, said at the time

Some bar owners complain that police take kickbacks and treat the bar girls like animals, whereas some of the bar girls allege owners keep a large chunk of their tips and often resort to violence to stop them leaving.

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