Miss Nepal gives Dabur sleepless nights

August 6th, 2008 - 1:13 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 6 (IANS) She was given the kiss of life seven years ago by Indian ayurvedic giant Dabur. But now Miss Nepal, the Himalayan republic’s oldest and most prestigious beauty pageant, has run into fresh trouble due to a combination of politics and Maoists. The former guerrillas, who could be leading the next government of Nepal, have trained their sights on this year’s pageant and warned that they would not allow it to be held.

Though the beauty contest had been generating protests on a small scale for several years, they snowballed last year under the leadership of the Maoist women’s organisation.

Protesters created a law and order problem on the day the contest was held, staging a sit-in before the venue and tearing down the welcome arch.

This year, the protests started last month when the Hidden Treasure, the event management company organising the show, announced that it was accepting applications.

A total of 26 organisations affiliated to the Maoists and communists have started holding public meetings, accusing the Indian company of exploiting women to expand its business. They have also petitioned the chairperson of the constituent assembly Subhash Nembang and lawmakers, urging them to prevent the pageant.

Last month, protesters forced a beauty pageant in Pokhara city to reinvent itself as a cultural show.

In addition to the protests, the organisers of the pageant are now plagued by a new problem: lack of venue.

Since the last seven years, when Dabur Nepal became the main sponsor of the pageant to promote its Dabur Vatika brand of beauty products, the event was held at the prestigious Birendra International Convention Centre, which has also served as the venue of SAARC summits and other regional meets.

However, since May 28, when the newly elected constituent assembly held its first meeting, the BICC has been converted into Nepal’s caretaker parliament and would continue to remain so till the new constitution is drafted, which would take at least two years.

The organisers are therefore desperately looking for another venue but are yet to find an alternative.

Meanwhile, a public debate on the pageant is growing as well with critics calling it an elitist show intended only for people from the upper classes, like air hostesses, daughters of political leaders and aspiring models.

Also, though the pageant allows the top three contenders to take part in international contests, like Miss World, the prize money is peanuts compared to the incentives raked in by their peers in neighbouring India.

While the winner of the crown gets Nepali Rs.100,000 - a little over Indian Rs.70,000 - and a scooter, the first runner-up gets Rs.60,000 and the second runner-up Rs.40,000.

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