Is Aamir Khan’s 'Satyamev Jayete' misrepresenting facts?

Bollywood actor makes tall claims on his show, which many in the community are refuting as falsely creating hype

“I don’t care about TRPs; this show is more about connecting with audiences,” uttered Aamir Khan during one of the many aggressive promotional campaigns in the lead up to yesterday’s dramatic television debut of “Satyamev Jayate” (Truth Alone Prevails).

However, even Khan wouldn’t have anticipated the curtain raiser to garner a record-breaking TRP of 8.7, according to early media reports, while smashing the 5.24 rating record that had been garnered by Amitabh Bachchan for the opening of “Kaun Banega Crorepati?” (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) Season 5.

Yet, many critics claim that Khan’s viewership for his TV show was largely generated courtesy his iconic status as an actor, with sensationalism content being the driver to keep the audience in their seats and tuned in.

Fact or fiction?

While most have lauded the actor’s sensitive approach in broaching the subject of female foeticide in the very first episode of “Satyamev Jayate”, there are many who are questioning the very basis of his research and the generalisation that its claiming.

Said Dubai resident and freelance writer, Mrinali Pathak: “Call it a professional drawback but when I hear people make tall claims about subjects that interest me, I feel duty bound to check these so called statistics.

“During his show, while Aamir didn’t come outright and say it, he heavily implied when speaking with a noted gynaecologist on his show, that no doctors have been brought to justice for partaking in the female foeticide cartel. That certainly is not true.”

The Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act came into play in India in 1994, under which violators can be punished with imprisonment for three years and a fine of Rs 10,000.

Albeit 12 years after the law was passed, but on March 28, 2006 Dr Anil Sabsani and his assistant were sentenced to two years in prison for violating the Act in Palwal, Haryana.

Meanwhile, Punjab has seen one conviction to date, where Dr Neelam Kohli of Ropar district was fined Rs1,000 by the Kharar court in July, 2003.

In any subsequent conviction, under the PNDT Act, the imprisonment could increase to five years and the fine to Rs 50,000.

Even the pregnant woman is liable to be punished if she is not able to prove that she was forced to go in for sex-determination or abortion.

“Aamir Khan needs to be take social responsibility of the facts that he puts out there in the public arena, or his credibility does come into question,” said Dubai-based Maxwell Joseph. “If he is discussing the legality of female foeticide in India and saying how it was implemented in government hospitals once upon a time, then he needs to also highlight that it was outlawed by that very government in 1994.

Blogger Mr Mintu also raised objection to another segment on the show, stating on his site: “Aamir asked the guys in Haryana why they haven’t gotten married until now. The guys replied, “because there are no women”. Mr Aamir, please go ahead and ask them how many of them are employed.”

He added: “Show us the full story and not only the selective parts that you want us to see.”

Credibility in question

Aired at a time-slot of 11am in India, which was once popular for epic shows during the ’90s, “Satyamev Jayate” is once again targeting the family audience as it is telecast on all Star channels, aired on Doordarshan National TV, beamed globally and dubbed in various regional languages.

The time slot certainly is a marketing genius, say some critics, where Khan gains credibility by not opting for a prime time spot in the evening but taking a no nonsense viewing time that isn’t ripe for the picking by adhocs.

But is this just another gimmick at play?

Blogger Nijeesh takes the middle road on The Faulty Thought blog by raising a valid statement: “Trashing this show only because this show is being hosted by a marketing wizard with a hoard of Multi National Corporations backing it, questions our rationality more than it does his and their credibility.”

He adds: “At this point, it must be pointed out that the makers of the show have taken all the care possible to address even this aforementioned issue.

“Various brand managers have been asked to not buy any advertising slots or screen any of Khan’s advertisements during the show, fearing the dilution of the show’s impact.”

Credibility or not, Khan’s and the show’s supporters have come out in droves to champion the movement.

As, a Dubai-based professor, Sakshi Bachani, told Emirates 24|7 earlier: “Fair enough that “Satyamev Jayate” is a profit making venture, but isn’t everything on TV? The bigger picture here is not the money trail, but rather the fact that a sensible actor, who is well liked and respected by the masses in India is attempting a revolution.

“Today, even if a single household or young mother is inspired by his words and stands up to female foetiicide then isn’t that one life saved more valuable than ad money. This is a wakeup call. It’s our choice if we choose to do so or slink back into our slumber.”

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