Letters to the editor

Readers' comments: 'The depiction of women in Bollywood perpetuates their commodification'

A selection of readers' opinions.

Unsafe streets

Gauri Lankesh’s abject defence of Bangalore’s liberalism requires analysis (“How did Bengaluru become unsafe for women – and what can we do to reclaim our streets?”). Its liberalism and cosmopolitanism lay in how women wore short dresses in Brigade Road and consumed alcohol in the heyday of the seventies and the eighties. Of course there were Romeos and molesters but comparatively less than in the second decade of the twenty first century.

Lankesh does not offer us any statistics to support this claim, just her own personal experiences which can be easily contradicted by several women including myself who have lived in Bangalore for a major part of our lives. Her contention on what could have gone wrong rests on neo-liberalism anti-ethical to Bangalorean liberalism – outsiders who are new to Bangalore’s “gender friendly liberalism”, the male gaze which is an incorrect form of liberalism and that Bangalore is becoming like the rest of the country. Her status as an elite native can be seen in her assertion of linguistic chauvinism being absent in Bengaluru and the fact that she did not mention the riots after Rajkumar’s death and the Gokak agitation in the 1980s. – Geetanjali A Srikantan

***

Let us not forget how the depiction of women in Bollywood perpetuates the commodification of women. I am still shocked by the lyrics of the immensely popular “Fevicol Se” song. Most Bollywood heroines have performed in these item numbers, which makes them complicit in their own objectification. – Arnab Basak

Self-defence strategy

This move appears to be an ill-thought one where the burden of responsibility of protection seems to shift from the CISF to the women commuters (“Women commuters can carry knives on Delhi Metro trains for ‘self-protection’”).

What happens if a potential attacker is able to wrestle a knife from the woman who’s being attacked? Why not deploy beat marshals on the trains, or equip each coach with adequate surveillance and alarm-triggering mechanisms to deter potential mischief makers? Moreover, why not enforce the law by meting out harsher punishments? – Kunal Roy

Neighbourhood ties

This book is an eye-opener for Indians who may not be aware of the existence of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (“Why India cannot win wars against its neighbours (and why that doesn’t even matter”). And the book offers much pain for those wish to see India’s conflicts with its neighbours end in victory for her.

According to me, India cannot be a pivot nation, because it is a destination of power in itself. Geopolitical ambitions find their destination here. India has significant little to gain from exerting her influence over the Central Asian wastelands; her energy would be better spent on defending plains and the plateaus of India proper. And, as far as defence is concerned, the Indian Armed Forces have done a decent job. Pakistan continues to attack, but they are further from a victory, military or otherwise, than they ever were.

As for China and the CPEC, the strategic value of these will come into question over time. Shipping rates are the lowest they have ever been. Why spend billions on developing road infrastructure over wastelands and mountains when sea trade is more efficient? Of what use is the CPEC when, despite its existence, Pakistan is not able to trade with its most obvious destination market, India? It would be unwise of India to offer it this courtesy when the bloodletting tactics of Pakistan continue unabated.

Plus it does not seem China herself has much to gain from developing these corridors as the Asian Giant is already destination market – there is not one country where China is not a key supplier. – Krishnan

***

This was a nice article, but I think the author needs to carry out more research in this field. What halts India’s rise to becoming a superpower are politics played by NATO nations and their allies.

The writer says: “Let alone China, India cannot even win a war against Pakistan. And this has nothing to do with the possession of nuclear weapons – the roles of nuclear and conventional weapons are separate in the war planning of India, China and Pakistan.”

This is an exaggeration. Despite optimal use of military force, which the author stresses on, Pakistan was not able to hold off Kargil, let alone win the war.

It’s not Pakistan or NATO’s optimisation that saves them from Russia or India, it’s the values of the latter two. Else a country with NSAs like Ajit Doval can realise nightmares even to China! – Laksha Tyagi

***

Thanks for this critical analysis, which is so well written. If India wants to project herself as a world power, then it will have to go along with Bangladesh and Pakistan. A grand alliance of common interest between these three countries, and Afghanistan, will make the subcontinent a huge superpower economically as well militarily.

The only hurdles in this path are Indo-Pak armed forces. – Abrar Ahmad

Historical interpretations

This is with reference to “A visit to Pakistan’s Eimanabad, where Guru Nanak once stayed, throws new light on Babur’s legacy.”

In the article, Haroon Khalid says:

“Nanak refused to bless the Mughal king, questioning his audacity to seek his blessings after conquering the land where he lived. However,
even without the guru’s blessings, Babur succeeded in his conquests and in spreading the Mughal Empire.”

However, it is written and believed by many scholars that Babur, on learning that a very holy man was in prison, Babur visited Guru Nanak, granted him liberty and invited him to his tent for further discussions.

During these discussions, Guru Nanak asked Babur to be just with all and stop terrorising the innocent. – Shankar Das

Caste vote

Caste affiliations may be one of the factors that influence people to vote for a particular party or a candidate, but not at the cost of performance and administrative experience (“Jayalalithaa’s death gives Tamil Nadu a chance to rescue itself from politics of hate and caste”). Instead of advocating people of other fraternities on their political beliefs and choices, the immediate challenge facing the author’s party and other smaller parties is to formulate strategies and build a positive reputation so that people also have them in their mind while making a decision. But for narrow political gains, such parties have built an undesirable reputation and pass the buck for their political being on others. – Karthik G

***

A reservation for Dalits and religious minorities for posts of chief minister, state ministers, general secretary and the like should be demanded.

However, as you might have noticed, Dalits and religious minorities in top posts of the judiciary and bureaucracy are still seeking the advice of Brahmins only. This attitude needs to be changed. They should be firm about their own decisions. What suggestions does the author have for this? – Balakumar MS

Tough talk

The reviewer rightly explains the ideology of the Dangal – a mix of competitive sports and hegemonic nationalism (“Three things Dangal’s mind-boggling success taught us”). We know that the cult of militant nationalism often reproduces itself through hyper-competitive sports carnivals. And in this alliance of sports and nationalism lies everything that fulfils the need for mass entertainment and thrill. At a time when we see the assertion hyper-masculine nationalism, a film like this acquires a special meaning – it seems to be in tune with the mood of the times.

Yes, it is a well-crafted film. However, its ideological messages are immensely problematic. For instance, its discourse of feminism is self-defeating because it assumes that successful women have to be like men – tough, competitive, divorced from the softer dimensions of life; and they have to defeat men at their own game. The doctrine of aggression is not challenged; it is just in an apparently feminist package. – Avijit Pathak

***

I am a regular visitor to your site, thanks to your excellent coverage, incisive analysis, lucid writing, and most importantly, balanced approach. Therefore, this story came as an unpleasant surprise to me.

Starting with Lagaan, Aamir Khan has made a string of films that are not only entertaining and aesthetically pleasing, but also educative, and inspiring, such as Taare Zameen Par and Three Idiots.

However, the author of this article ignores these incontrovertible facts and says rather cynically: “Khan has a canny ability to mythologise his career choices.”

I think this is unfair to Aamir Khan, who practises what he preaches. He has never got into a controversy of his own making: hasn’t run over pavement dwellers driving drunk, hasn’t slapped fellow guests at a restaurant, hasn’t curried favour with gutter-level politicians to cadge agricultural land out of a government and hasn’t – I believe – lobbied for a Rajya Sabha seat.

The article then observes: “… the sub-genre (of sports biopics) has become a clichéd heap of training montages and early obstacles that are eventually surmounted for predictable victories. The biopic is in danger of becoming the new fantasy movie – a fantasy of individual achievement against a hostile and corrupt system that is designed to hold back Indians. If this system did not exist, films as varied as Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Dangal argue, Indians would have been sitting at the top of gold medal charts.”

But this is true – Indian athletes do not sit at the top of gold medal charts precisely because of this and many other reasons, principally, the huge asymmetry of opportunities, where marginalised people like the adivasis of Central India or remote mountains do not even have access to a healthy diet, let alone scientific training.

So Dangal represents the stark reality of India today. Let’s also recall that Aamir had done an episode in Styameva Jayate with the real Phogat sisters, just to bring the author back from her fantasy world. Just imagine: had there been thousands of more Khumulwng Tribal Gymnasiums (where Dipa Karmakar trained), how many more Dipas could we have had?

Finally, Aamir Khan is an asset to India who has brought several unknown issues that hurt millions into sharp focus. I would earnestly request you not to allow your website to serve the agenda of Muslim haters by baselessly accusing him of “manipulative film-making”. – Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri

Historical claims

I agree with almost everything the writer says about the bizarre claims and the non-scientific approach in the paper published in a journal of the Indian Centre for Historical Research’s (“’Dancing Girl’ as Parvati is just one of many bizarre claims in ICHR paper on Harappan civilisation”).

However, the writer too seems to have reached her conclusion quickly, without looking at all current scientific evidence.

I recommend she read the book The Lost River: On The Trail of The River Saraswati. This has nothing to do with Shiva or Parvati, but it collates all available information and tries to connect the dots in the simplest manner possible.

Once she reads it, she will probably agree that a majority of the Western-backed scientific community has been trying to connect the dots in an extraordinarily convoluted way, when a much simpler and plausible explanation exists. – Karthik

Pride and prejudice

Smruti Koppikar’s article on the Maratha activism and the recent vandalism by Sambhaji Brigade is well written, exploring the reasons behind the phenomenon (“Maratha pride (and votes): Why the statue of a legendary Marathi playwright was vandalised in Pune”). – Sanjay Marathe

Captain cool

It seems the author of this article does not quite appreciate the role of any leader (“What made MS Dhoni one of India’s greatest captains? He just kept things simple”). The basic responsibilities of a captain that you cited are very important for how a match proceeds and which way it swings.

You seem to see a captain as a poster boy for the media. It is precisely this level of underestimation that assures me of the ignorance illustrated in the article.

The ability to select youngsters and believe in them is what makes great captains. As Wasim Akram has said time and again, what made Imran Khan one of the greatest captains was his intuition about future stars.

The Indian team was great even during the 2007 World Cup, but it had an x-factor under Dhoni’s captaincy that led to 2011 victory.

In shorter formats a captain is indispensable. Just to give you a sense of how important, Dhoni would have had a totally different batting career ( a far superior one) if he was playing under someone else. He decided to give the batting order that solidarity by batting at number 6 or 7.

It was not that Dhoni was successful because he understood that a captain does not matter that much in a chaotic world of media frenzy. He was successful because he was able to gather the sense of the game and make the surroundings and distractions irrelevant. – Archit Singhal

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

India’s urban water crisis calls for an integrated approach

We need solutions that address different aspects of the water eco-system and involve the collective participation of citizens and other stake-holders.

According to a UN report, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is physically scarce and another 1.6 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage. They lack basic access to water. The criticality of the water situation across the world has in fact given rise to speculations over water wars becoming a distinct possibility in the future. In India the problem is compounded, given the rising population and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank has forecast that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.

Water challenges in urban India

For urban India, the situation is critical. In 2015, about 377 million Indians lived in urban areas and by 2030, the urban population is expected to rise to 590 million. Already, according to the National Sample Survey, only 47% of urban households have individual water connections and about 40% to 50% of water is reportedly lost in distribution systems due to various reasons. Further, as per the 2011 census, only 32.7% of urban Indian households are connected to a piped sewerage system.

Any comprehensive solution to address the water problem in urban India needs to take into account the specific challenges around water management and distribution:

Pressure on water sources: Rising demand on water means rising pressure on water sources, especially in cities. In a city like Mumbai for example, 3,750 Million Litres per Day (MLD) of water, including water for commercial and industrial use, is available, whereas 4,500 MLD is needed. The primary sources of water for cities like Mumbai are lakes created by dams across rivers near the city. Distributing the available water means providing 386,971 connections to the city’s roughly 13 million residents. When distribution becomes challenging, the workaround is to tap ground water. According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment, 48% of urban water supply in India comes from ground water. Ground water exploitation for commercial and domestic use in most cities is leading to reduction in ground water level.

Distribution and water loss issues: Distribution challenges, such as water loss due to theft, pilferage, leaky pipes and faulty meter readings, result in unequal and unregulated distribution of water. In New Delhi, for example, water distribution loss was reported to be about 40% as per a study. In Mumbai, where most residents get only 2-5 hours of water supply per day, the non-revenue water loss is about 27% of the overall water supply. This strains the municipal body’s budget and impacts the improvement of distribution infrastructure. Factors such as difficult terrain and legal issues over buildings also affect water supply to many parts. According to a study, only 5% of piped water reaches slum areas in 42 Indian cities, including New Delhi. A 2011 study also found that 95% of households in slum areas in Mumbai’s Kaula Bunder district, in some seasons, use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 litres per capita per day.

Water pollution and contamination: In India, almost 400,000 children die every year of diarrhea, primarily due to contaminated water. According to a 2017 report, 630 million people in the South East Asian countries, including India, use faeces-contaminated drinking water source, becoming susceptible to a range of diseases. Industrial waste is also a major cause for water contamination, particularly antibiotic ingredients released into rivers and soils by pharma companies. A Guardian report talks about pollution from drug companies, particularly those in India and China, resulting in the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. The report cites a study which indicates that by 2050, the total death toll worldwide due to infection by drug resistant bacteria could reach 10 million people.

A holistic approach to tackling water challenges

Addressing these challenges and improving access to clean water for all needs a combination of short-term and medium-term solutions. It also means involving the community and various stakeholders in implementing the solutions. This is the crux of the recommendations put forth by BASF.

The proposed solutions, based on a study of water issues in cities such as Mumbai, take into account different aspects of water management and distribution. Backed by a close understanding of the cost implications, they can make a difference in tackling urban water challenges. These solutions include:

Recycling and harvesting: Raw sewage water which is dumped into oceans damages the coastal eco-system. Instead, this could be used as a cheaper alternative to fresh water for industrial purposes. According to a 2011 World Bank report, 13% of total freshwater withdrawal in India is for industrial use. What’s more, the industrial demand for water is expected to grow at a rate of 4.2% per year till 2025. Much of this demand can be met by recycling and treating sewage water. In Mumbai for example, 3000 MLD of sewage water is released, almost 80% of fresh water availability. This can be purified and utilised for industrial needs. An example of recycled sewage water being used for industrial purpose is the 30 MLD waste water treatment facility at Gandhinagar and Anjar in Gujarat set up by Welspun India Ltd.

Another example is the proposal by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to recycle and reclaim sewage water treated at its existing facilities to meet the secondary purposes of both industries and residential complexes. In fact, residential complexes can similarly recycle and re-use their waste water for secondary purposes such as gardening.

Also, alternative rain water harvesting methods such as harvesting rain water from concrete surfaces using porous concrete can be used to supplement roof-top rain water harvesting, to help replenish ground water.

Community initiatives to supplement regular water supply: Initiatives such as community water storage and decentralised treatment facilities, including elevated water towers or reservoirs and water ATMs, based on a realistic understanding of the costs involved, can help support the city’s water distribution. Water towers or elevated reservoirs with onsite filters can also help optimise the space available for water distribution in congested cities. Water ATMs, which are automated water dispensing units that can be accessed with a smart card or an app, can ensure metered supply of safe water.

Testing and purification: With water contamination being a big challenge, the adoption of affordable and reliable multi-household water filter systems which are electricity free and easy to use can help, to some extent, access to safe drinking water at a domestic level. Also, the use of household water testing kits and the installation of water quality sensors on pipes, that send out alerts on water contamination, can create awareness of water contamination and drive suitable preventive steps.

Public awareness and use of technology: Public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for water conservation and the use of technology interfaces can also go a long way in addressing the water problem. For example, measures such as water credits can be introduced with tax benefits as incentives for efficient use and recycling of water. Similarly, government water apps, like that of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, can be used to spread tips on water saving, report leakage or send updates on water quality.

Collaborative approach: Finally, a collaborative approach like the adoption of a public-private partnership model for water projects can help. There are already examples of best practices here. For example, in Netherlands, water companies are incorporated as private companies, with the local and national governments being majority shareholders. Involving citizens through social business models for decentralised water supply, treatment or storage installations like water ATMs, as also the appointment of water guardians who can report on various aspects of water supply and usage can help in efficient water management. Grass-root level organizations could be partnered with for programmes to spread awareness on water safety and conservation.

For BASF, the proposed solutions are an extension of their close engagement with developing water management and water treatment solutions. The products developed specially for waste and drinking water treatment, such as Zetag® ULTRA and Magnafloc® LT, focus on ensuring sustainability, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the water and sludge treatment process.

BASF is also associated with operations of Reliance Industries’ desalination plant at Jamnagar in Gujarat.The thermal plant is designed to deliver up to 170,000 cubic meters of processed water per day. The use of inge® ultrafiltration technologies allows a continuous delivery of pre-filtered water at a consistent high-quality level, while the dosage of the Sokalan® PM 15 I protects the desalination plant from scaling. This combination of BASF’s expertise minimises the energy footprint of the plant and secures water supply independent of the seasonal fluctuations. To know more about BASF’s range of sustainable solutions and innovative chemical products for the water industry, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.