Monday, 7 May 2012

Satyamev Jayate....Jai ho!

Last year summer, Edulever conducted a feasibility study for a vocational training program in the mofussil town of Saharanpur in western U.P. As a part of this, we conducted a survey covering 1000 households situated in lower-middle income areas of the town. The target was to interact with youth in the 15 - 25 age group, but we decided to extend our mandate and look at the education status among 6 - 14 year olds as well. It was in this second category of children that we found something seriously amiss.

The slide from the final presentation on the survey
in which we highlighted the gender skew
Of the 550 children for whom information was collected, the ratio of boys to girls was 65-to-35. Even in the older age group, there were only 78 females for every 100 males (for a pool of 1687 respondents). These were randomly selected households, though a majority happened to be orthodox Hindu families. We could not probe further into the reason for the gender skew - it is likely that in a survey such as this, homes may not have encouraged girls to talk to us. However, we were left with the distinctly uncomfortable feeling that the sinister hand of female foeticide may have had a role to play.

Yesterday, while watching the first episode of Aamir Khan's TV debut on Satyamev Jayate, I let out a silent applause for highlighting the stark social issue of female foeticide. The episode was wisely crafted - it managed to strike just the right balance between the emotional and rational halves within us. Aamir clearly deserves the accolades - it would have been so much easier for him to come up with a pure entertainment show to capture as many eyeballs. After the slew of inane "reality" shows, I had approached SJ with some cynicism and watched it only because of Aamir - who I respect for having mainstreamed the ills of our education system in Taare Zameen Par and 3 Idiots. With SJ, the showman has proved once again that he has the vision and the outlook that many of his contemporaries lack.

It would be interesting to see which other concerns the show highlights in its forthcoming episodes. And there are so many serious issues that merit a similar highlight...rampant alcoholism among men in the rural areas often leading to domestic violence, children being ruthlessly punished (kicked, made to starve, beating followed by chilly powder poured down their throat...only some of the examples that came out of a research conducted by Plan International), neglect of the elderly, apathy for the disabled, cruelty towards animals...issues that we as a society have collectively and conveniently chosen to overlook...

It may be too early to celebrate, but Satyamev Jayate might just prove to be the turning point in lifting the veil of stupor around us...