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Wow! Government-sponsored fairness!

Posted: February 4, 2011
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Via Nature blogs, I came to know about this challenge jointly being promoted by the Government Department of Science & Technology and P&G – and what is it, but another goodie for us brown-skinned masses – a “better” skin whitening product.

The issue is not about whether companies should manufacture fairness products. Personally, I believe that they are totally unnecessary, but I’m not sure if they promote a craze for white skin or capitalise on an existing prejudice. In any case, I’m not for banning products unless they are physically harmful – beyond that, in a free market economy, it is up to users to banish poor products by not opening their wallets.

The issue is whether a government owned department, which runs on our tax money – should be spending any money at all to help develop a product that privileges one skin type over another. While the market may have its own verdict on fairness creams, certainly the government should not be using our monies to endorse them.

The issue is not, unlike what the current DST secretary contends, about “how much” money is going into the project; if the aim of the DST is to promote scientific research and education in India, I fail to see how development of a fairness cream fits into that – so any money is too much. Yes, the individual researchers(s) working on it may learn something, but does it have any potential for larger application?

The fundamental definition of a public-private partnership is that both come together to build something that benefits the private party (usually in the form of revenue) and the public (in the form of a common resource/skill/ asset).

While it is clear enough how the company would benefit, it looks like we, the public, can look forward to the dubious benefit of yet another “new and improved” fairness cream.

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