By Shivani Baghel
Edited by, Anandita Malhotra, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
Back in August 2012, Indian Television roared a wave of change. Lazy Sunday brunches were replaced by a family television hour, just like back in Malgudi days. Only that this time, the story was not a fiction. It was real. The reality of India was served hot and fresh at the 11 AM slot. It’s said Aamir Khan intentionally suggested the Sunday morning slot to ensure a family viewing and reaching out to masses across the urban and rural households. So, in the midst of glitzy bahus and sassy vamps, we had the simple, raw story of an Indian- of You and Me.
While the primary language of the show was Hindi, it was simulcast in eight languages such as Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu, and subtitled in English, to ensure maximum reach. It was aired on various channels within along with Star Network also organized special screening for villages across states of Gujarat, UP and Maharashtra where television is not accessible.
Into its third season, Satyamev Jayate has come a long way. The first episode aired the sensitive issue of Female Foeticide. The viewers responded with great empathy and support all across the social media channels, along with an enthralling response from various eminent personalities. Aamir had hit it hard and where it hits the most: the Indian woman’s dignity. The figures released were astonishing- According to 2011 census, the rate at which unborn child is killed, amounts to killing of around 10 Lakh girls a year reducing the sex ratio to 914 girls for every 1000 boys. The fact that, 3 crore unborn girls have been killed since independence raised serious questions on India’s progress as a nation. Never before had the Indian audience been so vaguely and collectively exposed to the stark reality of their developing India. The publicity, the hoopla, and the perfectionist had, after all, magnetized the nation to their television screens on this morning.
It showed the light to empower the Indian citizens and make them believe that India needs change, and all of us, together, can make a difference. The difference is very much evident from the fact that Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court, Arun Mishra, had soon given a green signal to set up a fast track court for expediting trial in the female foeticide cases. Within a year after they were set up, 31 convictions for violating the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act were recorded. A PCPNDT Bureau of Investigation was also set up. Between 2012 and 2013, the Rajasthan government carried out 20 sting operations after which registrations of 150 centers and many doctors license were cancelled. The government has also started monitoring diagnostic centers online.
Following the above case, the episode dealing with the sensitive issue of child sexual abuse showed that nearly 53% children in India undergo sexual abuse. The 1098 Child line has been expanded to 291 districts after the 2012 show was aired. The city office of Child line has seen about half a dozen cases since the second episode of the show on Sunday which was on child sexual abuse. 267 calls reporting molestation and 529 reporting rapes were recorded- an increase from a mere 44 and 93 calls respectively. The impact is evident, yet again.
Aamir repeatedly, kept on bringing horrifying, yet truthful, stories of women and men, all across the nation, suffering in silence. He has opened the eyes of millions, awakened the spirits of few and ignited a fire of ACTION in all. The youth was both stunned and delighted to watch a meaty show on television after decades-Stunned, of knowing the ugly truth of Indian society and delighted, of being a part of the changing stratum of their country. To be real, people cannot change in a day. But if the future of our nation understands the difference between right and wrong, we are somewhere heading the right path.
However, Satyameve Jayate has not all been about appreciation and accolades. Despite of the fact that a lot of masses talk about how well scrutinized the whole program is, there are few who complain of distorted facts and vague research. The show has been alleged to put up false stories, manipulated and tossed with wicked editing and splicing of shots to gain juicy TRPs. It’s also been said that every participant on show is forced to sign a ‘confidentiality agreement’ stating that they will not speak about their participation on any social media platform. Aamir too has been condemned for being overly emotional and parroting lines sprucing a fake made up show. In fact, the media on many occasions has raised questions regarding why Aamir charges a whopping 3Cr per episode if it’s a cause ‘so close to his heart’? SMJ is also professed to have not been including issues relevant to the Indian society ensuing from political pressure. Moreover, the critics say that Aamir’s Satyamev Jayate fails to show a mirror to the society. Instead of making phantom of outsiders like policemen, doctors and lawyers, the mindset of family and society which breeds the inequalities, should be rationalized. A leading media house poised it as a failure in their statement- “To some extent, when it chose to ignore the socialization that gives rapists a sense of security, Khan and his television show failed their social responsibility”.
Aamir Khan realizes that just spreading the awareness does not bring the change, action must be taken. This show is beyond generating donations through SMS and online action. It does not let us win jackpots nor does it give exciting gift hampers to the victims. The amount collected through SMS, cheques and online transfers is sent to various organizations. Satyamev Jayate’s philanthropy partner also donates the matching amount to all these organizations. After its first season itself, an aggregate of a little over Rs 22.32 Cr, has been generated as donations towards various charities and causes. In fact, Airtel, the official sponsor for SMJ, who was criticized for charging Rs3 per SMS, has slashed down their rates To Re1 , while announcing to donate their revenues towards charity.
We can’t be cynical about the fact that the show has truly been instrumental in raising awareness about the glitches in our society, while recognizing the efforts of diverse institutions, NGO’s, and individuals working for the welfare of the nation. Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh’s ‘Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan’ recites the collective support it has garnered from everywhere. The people want to be more active in their parts and have shown deep interest in connecting with likes of MKSS. They are willing to move beyond coversations and engage actively for the cause. The impact is in fact, trans- border. MKSS has received solace from Pakistan and Bhutan too.
As a result of SMJ campaigning for ‘One Stop for Crisis’, Bhopal’s first OSCC centre Gauravi, was inaugurated at J. P. Hospital in the month of June 2014. It has enabled the rape victims to register an FIR, and get medical treatment, psychological counseling and legal aid—all under one roof. The health minister of Bihar had invited Aamir Khan to support his ‘Bitiya bachao’ moment while, The Haryana government had made an announcement of making it mandatory for pregnant women to submit a photocopy of their identification proof at ultrasound centers before undergoing the test. In Madhya Pradesh, 65 MTP (medical termination of pregnancy) licenses were suspended because they hadn’t submitted the necessary documents. The Union Health Minister has asked all hospitals to set up a designated room for forensic and medical examination of rape victims while drawing new guidelines for the same, which will hopefully put an end to the “horrendous” medical process, which the victims are subjected to after the sexual abuse.The ‘Waste Free Jodhpur’ campaign is also one of the inspired action taken by the Rajasthan Governemnt towards a cleaner and healthier society.
“सिर्फ हंगामा खड़ा करना मेरा मकसर्द नहीं , मेरी कोशिश है की यह सूरत बदलनी चाहिए! मेरे सीने में नहीं तो तेरे सीने में सही, हो कहीं भी आग, लेकिन आग जलनी चाहिए।“
(Rabble rousing is not my aim, the whole effort is to bring a change. If not in my mine, then yours by all means – wherever it may be lit, but the point is that the fire must be lit!)
As far as I am concerned, I believe even if it needs the entire slam associated, if Khan and SMJ is able to usher us into an era of positive developments, we should not have anything to whine about. When people talk about the actor’s high fee, I ask why can’t he charge an amount for something he’s putting his time and money into. A lot of research and hard work goes into crafting shows like these. If they are able to influence the malice in our culture and transform it into something humane, he deserves every penny of it. He has the ability to connect with the audience in a delicate yet in a very firm manner. He brings out the voice of the people. Over the course of almost two years now, the show has worked on diverse themes of Female foetecide, child abuse, dowry system, medical malpractices, honor killings, physical disabilities, domestic violence, pesticide organic farming, alcoholism, casteism, untouchability, old age, water crisis, idea of India, rape, police, waste management, corruption, crimes elections, and the topic of sports activation in the current season. The shows could be flaked or manipulated in some way to garner TRPs, but as long as it leaves a favorable impact, why even care about it? In a country plagued by social and cultural issues at the very core of its development, anything talking of an Impact and Change should be welcomed whole-heartedly!
Shivani Baghel is a true Piscean at heart and likes calling herself a Dreamer! Although an introvert, she is an absolute fun loving girl once you get to know her. She loves being an Agony Aunt as she says, “nothing gives me more happiness than helping others”. Her loved ones describe her as trustworthy and honest. She prefers spending her weekends lazing around in a corner, hooked up to a novel, sipping some green tea besides her window. A foodie that she is, exploring and discovering new places around her world fascinates her. She dreams of travelling the world around and writing something unique of each place. She loves doodling random thoughts at random places. Although she calls herself a big procrastinator, she knows for a fact, that no one can nail it the way she does at the last moment. Shivani firmly believes that wearing rose colored glasses can bring you happiness for today and aspirations for tomorrow, and hence doesn’t care a bit when people ask her to get a reality check! After all, only those who have the courage to dream it can achieve it.