/** labr.global: 230.0 **/
** Topic: Beauty Contest Spotlights Indian Poverty **
** Written 10:25 PM Nov 25, 1996 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **
From: Institute for Global Communications <email@example.com>
Subject: Beauty Contest Spotlights Indian Poverty
THE Miss World beauty pageant in Bangalore, to be watched on television today by more than two billion people in 115 countries, puts the new India on show: liberal, expensive, Westernised and full of imported goods.
The protests by traditionalist Hindus against the pageant are a whimper against the roar of change, the speed of which is creating chaos in the once timeless villages and unsettling the urban poor, who are exposed to unimagined glamour on newly arrived foreign television programmes.
This has happened in less than five years. Economic reforms since 1991 have increased the divide between rich and poor in the more prosperous states, split roughly along high-caste and low-caste lines. The steady breakdown of caste barriers in northern India they have long since been eroded in the south is putting unprecedented strains on a country that traditionally has resisted change.
Bangalore, India's high-technology boom town, is choking on its own success. Television will show only the glamorous images today: the world will not see the pollution, the beggars, the slums or the crumbling roads. Nor will people be told of the hours of daily power cuts or the shortages of piped water, the scourges of a country that is outgrowing itself.
Many of the poor wait with open palms outside Bangalore's air-conditioned shopping malls and warehouse-sized department stores, neither of which existed anywhere in India five years ago. Nor did Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken or McDonald's.
Back then there were only two heavily censored state-run television channels, and swimsuited girls were never seen on the screen. Now they are a routine sight. Even Playboy is planning to put on late-night TV shows via satellite. Four or five years ago, when most foreign goods were banned, Indian women had access to the products of only one cosmetics company, Lakme. Almost no Indian women, save for the better-off minority, wore make-up, but cultural resistance is changing rapidly under the new foreign influences. L'Or al, Yardley, Avon and Revlon have entered the market with multibillion-dollar investments.
The Miss World contest is certain to increase the trade of plastic surgeons, relatively rare a few years ago. There are now perhaps 500 of them.
A clinic in the central city of Bhopal gives girls a permanent dimple for 5,000 rupees, and beauty parlours, once almost non-existent, proliferate nationwide. A perm costs about the same as a labourer's monthly wage.
Bulimia and anorexia, conditions once almost unheard of, are increasing as women are exposed to Western fashion influences. Two Indian women have become national icons: Sushmita Sen, the former Miss Universe, and Aishwarya Rai, a former Miss World.