I missed the first episode of Satyamev Jayate yesterday and was disconsolate because I could not find any repeat telecast in the television listings I had been poring over early this morning. I cheered up when I saw IHM’s post on the episode sitting in my inbox–and jumped with joy when I found the Youtube link to the episode in the very first line! Thanks for the link, IHM!
About the episode–wow. It struck me that this was the first , and definitely very well-made and fairly comprehensive, documentary on the subject of female foeticide that I had ever seen on television.
The subject of sex-selective abortions is, after all, like the proverbial elephant in the room as far as television is concerned–they are loathe to talk much about it. Our news channels are too busy following the latest antics of our very colourful politicians and our entertainment channels are too busy minting money with their reality/talent shows and saas-bahu dramas. So all we get to see is an occasional discussion/news-item spanning all of five minutes, and ill-made ads such as this one which are apt to do more harm than good.
Which is why it was so heartening to finally see something on television that deals with the issue at some length and does some plain-speaking. The show featured some amazing mothers who showed extraordinary courage in insisting on giving birth to /raising their daughters in the face of intense pressure from their marital families to abort.
Host Aamir Khan’s eyes welled up many times listening to their horror stories. I cried at many points too–good thing I was watching alone.
One of these women was Dr. Mitu khurana, whose name I was familiar with thanks to the blogosphere. Her story blasted to bits the widely prevalent myth that it is only the poor and the uneducated who go in for sex-selective abortions or that it is a village/small town phenomenon. Here was a doctor married to another doctor–an orthopaedic surgeon –based in the country’s capital. Her father-in-law was a retired professor of history at Delhi University. Her mother-in-law was vice-principal at a government school in Rohtak. One of her sisters-in-law has a Ph’D. in Mathematics. And this family, by all accounts very academically inclined and very well off, tried every trick in the book and out of it to prevent Khurana from bearing to term her twin-daughters.
A very intriguing nugget of information was given by a senior doctor in a Delhi hospital, who explained how the foundations of this catastrophe were laid in the seventies, when, in their zeal to bring down the population, a government-funded research team of doctors theorized that people might want to have less children if they can be assisted in having at least one male child — by finding out the sex of the baby by amniocentesis(ultrsonography had not yet arrived on the scene) and advising the parents to abort babies of the unwanted sex.
This was actually given a go-ahead and was implemented in quite a few government hospitals before activists got wind of it and raised a hue and cry, forcing the government to backtrack. But the cat was out of the bag–many people had come to know that such a thing was possible and that had created a demand for sex-selection techniques. The doctors who had participated in the government’s initiative started doing it privately after the government developed cold feet.
Amniocentesis was an invasive and risky–not to mention expensive –procedure which meant that only a tiny section of the population could choose to avail of it.The floodgates were literally opened with the advent of ultrasonography–non-invasive, risk-free and cheap.
At one point Aamir displayed to the audience a map which showed how the problem manifested itself initially in isolated pockets in the north with peninsular India being almost untouched, but spread on rapidly throughout the country in the ensuing decades, so that now ‘vitually all of Mother India is awash with the blood of her daughters.‘ Truer words were never spoken.
Not all is lost, though. A flicker of hope comes from Nawashaher in Punjab. Just ten years back, the sex-ratio in this district had dipped below 800. A deputy commisioner took up the issue in earnest, launching a massive information campaign, strategizing with the help of no less than seventy-five organisations, working at the grass-roots, drawing action plans, plugging loop-holes. The results were there for all to see when the Census reports came out in 2011–1000 girls per 1000 boys in this district. What a remarkable turnaround, and that too in a region which bears the ignominy of having the worst sex-ratio in the country!
I have to say I have now become a card-carrying member of the Aamir Khan fan-club. Some months ago I did a post in which I bemoaned the fact that celebrities don’t lend a voice to the cause of female foeticide. Well, at least Aamir has done his bit.
I loved the Urdu couplet Aamir started the show with–
Sirf hungama khada karna mera maqsad nahin Meri koshish hai ki yeh soorat badalni chahiye.
(I don’t just want to raise a hue and cry. What I really want is to bring about a change)
Amen to that.