Why Aamir’s Satyamev Jayate is uninspiring?
The week Bollywood star Aamir Khan initiated a campaign against female feticide through television serial Satyamev Jayate there was an attempt in Ghaziabad to bury an unwarranted girl child alive.
The incident in Ghaziabad is not a standalone in vast India and shows the basic flaw in Aamir show — basic research and lack of background checking on so-called heroes.
To me, the Satyamev Jayate research team opted for easier way-out — Google. Everyone knows that child sex ratio in 0-6 age group is falling.
But Khan’s research team failed to find out why in 2011 Census the biggest dip was recorded not in the usual culprits — Jammu and Kashmir and Maharashtra. J&K, Maharashtra and Haryana have had the worst 30-year decline in child sex ratios.
I wanted to find out why the disease is spreading to new frontiers and Satyamev Jayate didn’t provide any answer. Primarily, because Khan’s team failed to do any new research and was totally dependent on information available in public domain. The show, however, should be applauded for presenting old research in a new format.
After the 2011 Census data came out, some independent researchers such as Sabu George visited Jammu and Kashmir to find out the reason. Shocking was the revelation. Many parents in northern districts of Kashmir, where the sex-ratio dip was highest, wanted a boy to fight for the cause of independence of Kashmir. And, there were unofficial cases of girl child buried after birth claiming her to be dead.
“It was just a mindset,” George told me a few months ago. It can change if more Kashmiri girls such as Dr Syed Sherish Asgar, who cleared Indian Administrative Service (IAS) of 2012, make it big and inspire others. “Traditionally, Kashmiris are not against the girl child,” he said.
Maharashtra, on the other hand, shows that the disease of female feticide has reached the districts hit by agriculture crises, especially the cotton belt. The failure of the BT Cotton in the second half of last decade had its impact on choice of off-spring. Many child sex detection clinics sprung up in the region helping to abort the girl child. This has been amply documented in the region.
It would not have been difficult to conduct a sting operation of such clinics now operational even in remote parts of the country. Satyamev Jayate opted for easier way-out. It sprung its camera to usual female feticide hot-spots and tried to use Khan’s cinematic aura to generate buzz. It succeeded to a large extend by getting television viewer-ship rating of 8.7, highest for any television show in India.
Many people, who watched Satyamev Jayate on Sunday, were there to see Aamir Khan and not concerned about feticide. I think, the one hour show, cannot change the mindset, to which George referred. It is ingrained deep into Indian mentality and it gets deeper, considering the mad demand for dowry on account of rising aspirations. A recent National Crime Records Bureau data shows that dowry deaths in India are on rise.
Khan said rightly that female feticide can end, if everyone, of us decides against it. It does not work that way Mr Khan. If a television sermon would have worked the world would have been much better place to live in decades ago.
In India, danda ki basha (language of stick) is understood. Female feticide can be checked, if there is life imprisonment, if not death penalty, for those involved in female feticide including doctors. Any violation of Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques Act should result in closure of the health clinic and arrest of all employees of the establishment. There should be specialized force to deal with female feticide cases. There should be fast track courts to decide on cases of female feticide, says maximum within three months.
It is true that Rajasthan High Court had decided to set up fast track court to hear all cases of female feticide but the key question remains — can it pronounce strict punishment under existing weak laws?
As referred above, I had problem with Khan’s, inaugural show of making heroes of female feticide villains. Somebody should have asked why only a couple of episodes of the sting operation in Rajasthan were shown on a national television channel. What happened to other episodes? Was there some financial deal struck? How did the financial fortune of one journalists involved in the sting changed dramatically within a short span of time?
Surprisingly, a doctor, who charges lakhs of rupees for an operation and refuses to do anything for charity, was described as savior of girl child. This was the feedback I got from my friends, who are grass root vigilantes for female feticide, in different parts of India for years.
Many also doubt Khan’s intention behind the show — to make money by highlighting societal evil or an agent of change. The Mint newspaper report this week that he is charging Rs three crore per episode from Star Network weakens his claim of being an agent of change. It strengthens the argument that the Bollywood’s thinking star just wants to make money by igniting our morals.
Despite all that, Khan has provided small light in this long dark tunnel of fight against female feticide or other social evils, which could depicted in coming episodes. Like many social activists, I also hope that Satyamav Jayate does not remain one Sunday reality show, which people enjoy and then forget.
The show should embolden the true Satyamav Jayate.