Indian festival is boom for private detectives

AHMEDABAD, India Fri Oct 19, 2007 12:51pm BST

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AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - Parents in western India are hiring private detectives to spy on their teenage children during a nine-day Hindu festival when late-night dance celebrations attract tens of thousands of youngsters.

"It is strange to pay someone to keep a night watch on my daughters but it is better than regretting later," said S. Doshi, a 42-year-old mother of two girls, aged 17 and 19.

Doshi used a detective agency to keep a vigil on her daughters, who dress up in revealing clothes every night and hop across several dance venues, eat and go for long drives with their friends.

"Children can do anything. Drugs, unprotected sex and bad company are my main worry," said Doshi, a resident of Ahmedabad, the main city of the western state of Gujarat.

Detective agencies say they are the only solution to the parental concern during the Navratri festive fervor which ends this weekend.

Garba, a traditional Indian dance, is performed to pay respect to Goddess Durga and it is on a grand scale, with visits from Bollywood stars and music troupes.

"We follow the boy or the girl to make sure that they have gone to the dance venue and report to parents if they leave the ground or spend time at a friend's house instead of dancing," said Sanjiv Thakkar of Mission Detective Agency.

Parents provide a photograph of their children and even details about their friends to the detectives who charge 2,000 to 4,000 rupees for snooping around every night.

Detective agencies say anxious parents have meant business is booming during the festive season and most are forced to hire freelance detectives to cater to soaring demand.

"You cannot stop your children from going out with friends but you can keep a check on them," said Neeta Vashist, a gynecologist in Ahmedabad who conducts workshops for teenagers before the festival.

"Every year, I get caseload of unmarried girls seeking abortions after the festival is over," she said.

Gujarat, thought to be a conservative state, also sees a sudden rise in condom sales during the festival, according to Rajan Gupta, a member of the Gujarat Drugs and Pharmacy Association.

"Freedom for nine nights is what children enjoy but parents have sleepless nights," said Gupta, who has a 16-year-old son.

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