Published: Friday 30 June 2000

Denigrating women

Your cover photograph ( Down To Earth, Vol 8, No 24; May 15) was absolutely shocking. It is so disheartening that even after consistent protests by women's organisationson the portrayal of womenin the mainstream media, we are subjected to such a shabby treatment from a progressive magazine like yours.

The cover is demeaning to women. It is objectionable on many scores: it not only objectifies a woman -- equating her with the car, but also completely dehumanises her in the picture -- showing just some part of her. This is a faceless woman, cut to bits. And the message seems to be that being attracted to a woman -- who 'lures' (your words), can in be "fatal" (your words again). The cover clearly springs from a male gaze -- the ultimate male fantasy: a 'sexy' woman and a glitzy car.

I would say that this cover borders on the pornographic. I think an apology in your next issue is the least you can do to try and repair the damage.

Received on email

I wonder if it crossed your mind that as an organisation committed to changing ways of thinking, you are now beginning to play into the customer's eyes for drawing attention to these causes by using a woman's legs as the focus point. You are almost luring the readers to 'read the story' just like any other mainstream magazine would do.

You mention "forget the glitz", why then are you using the glitz of a woman's legs to sit on the cancerous car? I believe that organisations like cse should be gender sensitive even if you don't work on 'gender issues', lest you are perpetuating the same bias and ways of commodifying women's bodies to 'catch attention of the reader on the stands'.

I do hope that your editorial team would be sensitive to such concerns in the future.

Received on email

Down To Earth does not endorse the way automobile companies use women to sell their vehicles. In fact, our cover was done deliberately as a spoof -- to show how when these companies use glitz and glamour to sell their cars, they are actually selling people "cancer". At the Auto Expo, held in New Delhi from January 12 to January 18, we were appalled to find that the rates for hiring models went by the state of undress of women -- so a mini skirt-clad model was paid more than a sari-clad woman.

I hope you and organisations concerned will take up this matter with the organisers of these trade fairs -- the Confederation of India Industry ( cii ) and the Society for Automobile Manufacturers of India ( siam ).

Publisher ...

Spreading misinformation

This is with reference to a discussion between bjp mp Praful Goradia and Narmada Bachao Andolan ( nba) activist Arundhati Roy which was telecast on Star News on April 30. Goradia made some very irresponsible statements on rainwater harvesting work being undertaken in several villages of Saurashtra. Moreover, he was completely ill-informed of the ground realities and was engrossed in accusing the nba and calling Arundhati an outsider.

Some time ago I wrote an article for Down To Earth on Shamjibhai Antala's initiates to recharge groundwater in Dhoraji near Rajkot for the past several years and how this effort had actually increased groundwater levels. I recently spoke to Shamjibhai and asked him about the situation in his village and surrounding areas and this is what he had to say. "Our village as well as villages within 15-20 kilometres from our village are totally self-sufficient in drinking water today, simply because their wells were recharged." Rajsamaria is just one of the villages that was shown to the media but there are several such villages -- Madalikpur being one of them.

"We are continuing to spread the word about saving and conserving rainwater and do not want misinformation to filter to the people with regard to the Narmada water reaching us. We have even recently started work in Madhya Pradesh where we are sharing our practical knowledge with the farmers. It is quite understandable that there has been less rain this year and there is a drought but that does not mean that we should just wait for the dam and not use our knowledge of ancient and simple water harvesting techniques, which have been extremely successful."

We need to highlight the fact that these small endeavours are actually the saving grace, and people should be allowed to work in spite of the dam and not wait for an uncertain respite. Therefore, when the likes of Praful Goradia say that "the people of Gujarat want the Sardar Sarovar Project to be completed and Kachchh hardly has any population to speak of," it amounts to spreading misinformation.

I hope you can make some terse remarks with regard to this as I feel that you are doing a tremendous job and what you say goes a long way in bringing about the desired results....

Patent on humans?

Your leader 'Public Property' ( Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 22; April 15) has rightly expressed concern over the issue of patenting of biodiversity and human genes. This is certainly one of the most serious issues of our times when private companies are patenting life itself. 'Gene Giant' corporations, despite reports on the contrary, are pursuing the engineering of seeds that cannot reproduce, thereby forcing farmers to purchase rather than save their seed from year to year. The biodiversity of countries such as India can be stolen and patented by private corporations -- as it happened with the Neem tree. Patents on animals turn them into an industrial production line.

Genetically engineered animals patented by corporations are considered, much like computer software, to be licensed to farmers. The babies of these animals are considered the property of the company. The meat and eggs from these animals are being also patented.

Most seriously of all, human genes are being patented. Your article welcomed the recent statements by us President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair to the effect that human genes would remain the common heritage of humankind. However, Clinton has since backtracked. The stock prices of biotech firms -- that have been patenting huge swathes of human gene sequences, often without knowing the function of those genes -- slumped after the statement. Showing his real instinct for the bottom line, Clinton, at a White House conference on technology, reassured investors that he had no intention of suggesting any change in us policy on patents. "Tony Blair and I crashed the market there for a day, and I didn't mean to," he concluded, amid laughter from the participants.

People everywhere are joining campaigns to stop patents on life, and in some cases have already been overturned. We urgently need to inform ourselves about the issues, and send a clear message to those in power, that the privatisation of life itself is legal madness, stifles innovation such as crucial medical research, creates huge monopolies, threatens food security, and most importantly of all, is ushering in a future that most of us find morally 'unconscionable'....

Danger relocated

I do not know the number of old vehicles that have been phased-out from metros like Delhi, but there has definitely been an increase in the number of old cars in the other cities and towns of India. The Supreme Court's order, of phasing-out old and polluting vehicles, is just restricted to the National Capital Region. Therefore, these cars find their buyers in other towns where the apex court's ruling does not apply. There are a number of agents involved in this business. As a result, there has been an alarming increase in air pollution in these places.

Does this imply that lives of people living outside Delhi are not important? Both the buyers as well as the sellers of these old cars are responsible for this worsening air pollution....

Towards a green planet

I enjoy reading Down To Earth and rate it as one of the best publications in the field of environment. I also found your website (www.cseindia.org) very attractive and full of information. I think all this has been possible only due to the efforts of Anil Agarwal and his team at the Centre for Science and Environment. Keep up the good work....

Commendable job

Down To Earth is doing an excellent job in disseminating information. Your work on rainwater harvesting is finally being seriously taken on a national level. I think Down To Earth and Gobar Times must be made compulsory for our politicians and bureaucrats of our country. What is needed is a total change in the attitude of our people, bureaucrats and the elected representatives towards the environment....

Success stories

It is indeed heartening to read about a few communities in Gujarat who have staved off the drought while the rest of state is reeling under a severe water crisis. The success stories mentioned in the article 'A Journey Foretold ( Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 2; June 15) should be highlighted by the national media. This will encourage a lot of people to initiate water harvesting projects in their areas too....

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