India Insight

Does India need ‘Bollywood activism’ to bring social change?

For India, it took a Bollywood actor’s weekend TV show to openly debate female foeticide, a rampant practice in parts of the country that has struggled with a lopsided sex ratio for decades.

The impact of the show Satyamev Jayate (Truth Alone Prevails) was evident when its host, actor Aamir Khan, convinced the chief minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, to help bring justice to women who have had to forcibly abort their foetuses.

Media reports say the Maharashtra state administration has also sought Khan’s help to prevent female foeticide.

Khan, one of the most popular Bollywood actors, has associated himself with various social causes in the past. But critics question his activism and say it is more to do with promoting an upcoming film.

Khan is perhaps the most outspoken Bollywood actor when it comes to social issues. But, when state governments like Rajasthan and Maharashtra wake up to issues as old as the pre-independence era merely through a TV show, it speaks volumes about the disconnect the administration has with its own people.

Falak saga latest in India’s battle for its missing girls

A two-year-old girl battling for life in a New Delhi hospital has put the media spotlight on a sordid tale of child abuse and prostitution in the world’s biggest democracy.

Three weeks ago, a toddler with severe injuries was brought to the hospital by a teenager claiming to be her mother. The child, later named Falak (sky) by nurses, was in critical condition, with human bite marks on her body.

Her story is being played out on television screens across India, shocking viewers with images of a hapless baby hooked up to a ventilator. There are daily updates on her health, while television campaigns exhort the government to do more for abandoned children.

New gender detection technique: gift or curse for girls in India?

By Ariana Wardak

Researchers in South Korea have developed a blood test that can determine the sex of a foetus as early as five weeks but not everyone may be gung-ho about the discovery, fearing it might be misused for sex selection in South Asian countries such as India where boys are prized over girls.

While the ability to determine the gender of a baby through a simple and cheap blood test may be seen as a blessing in the scientific community, the technique might prove lethal to baby girls in India where there is already a great difference in gender ratio with 933 females for every thousand males.

Until three decades ago, female infanticide — the killing a newborn baby girl — was widespread in India but due to advancement in technology, it is now possible to determine the gender in the womb itself, leading to a higher number of abortions.

Star seeks groom on TV and other soaps

A new reality show in which a bunch of suitable men vie for the hand of Bollywood starlet Rakhi Sawant is an interesting twist on the prevailing custom of Indian men choosing their brides.

Rakhi Sawant ka Swayamvar“, which harks back to the ancient tradition of princesses choosing a groom from a line-up, began airing on Monday night, pitting more than a dozen men from varied backgrounds — and with varying singing and dancing abilities — wooing Sawant, a colourful personality known more for her antics off camera.

It may be yet another publicity stunt for Sawant, who claims she will marry one of the men at the end of the series in a traditional wedding ceremony.

The sad state of Indian soap operas

Prime-time television in India is not really known for sensible content. Especially the soap operas. I have never been a fan but one tedious evening, I switched on the telly and sat through one “saas-bahu” serial after another.

What was it about family dramas that kept millions of Indian women glued to their TV sets each evening? I intended to find out.

In one such episode, a mother-in-law laments the loss of an unborn grandchild.

indiatv.jpg“We have lost our grandson and our daughter-in-law cannot bear a child after this. Now we will never have a grandson to take the family name forward.”

A horrible day in Haryana, and a challenge to India’s police

I had a truly depressing day in Haryana this week, reporting on the murder of a 21-year-old girl and her 22-year-old boyfriend .

The bodies of Sunita Devi (L), 21, and her partner Jasbir Singh, 22, lie on the ground after they were killed by villagers in an “honour killing” in Ballah village in the northern Indian state of Haryana May 9, 2008.It was sad enough to meet a village where many appeared proud of this brutal murder. To come home and see the photos of Sunita and Jasbir, laid out outside her father’s house for all the world to see, was heartbreaking.

Fear still stalks the villages of Balla and Machhroli where the murders took place. Jasbir’s family have been threatened by other villagers that they will also be killed if they speak to the media or if they refuse to drop charges.