In the opening episode of its first season, Satyamev Jayate focused on the wide prevalence of female foeticide in India. The outstanding work done by journalists Shripal Shaktawat and Meena Sharma to expose this social evil in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan came in for special attention. The reporters, who appeared as guests on the show, spoke about how they had performed sting operations to collect evidence against doctors who practised sex-selective abortions.
Due to their relentless efforts, the Government of Rajasthan instituted a probe against these doctors but no further action was taken. In fact, many of them had been promoted or cleared of all charges.
At the end of the show, Mr Aamir Khan made a commitment that he would pursue Shaktwat and Sharma’s cause and appeal to the state’s government to ensure that justice was done in the cases they had uncovered.
On May 10, 2012, Mr Khan kept his word and met with the then Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and requested him to get these cases clubbed together and tried in a fast-track court. Within a matter of a few weeks, the government announced the setting up of fast-track courts for speedy trial in all such cases. Within a year after they were set up, 31 convictions for violating the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act were recorded.
A PCPNDT Bureau of Investigation staffed with police officers, administrative managers and health officers was also set up in Rajasthan. Between 2012 and 2013, the Rajasthan government carried out 20 sting operations after which registrations of 150 centres and many doctors were cancelled. The government also started monitoring diagnostic centres online. “We monitor, on a daily basis, the number of sonographies performed in all centres across Rajasthan,” said a government spokesperson. “The impact of the show was such that people have started talking about the issue. Both doctors as well as the civil society are now looking at female foeticide as a social evil which must be tackled at an individual level. It has become a burning issue after Satyamev Jayate,” added the spokesperson. Programmes on gender sensitivity were initiated at the Rajasthan Police Academy and at the Central Detective Training school.
“There is a larger change in public sentiment,” say Shaktawat and Sharma. “There is a big change in mindset after the show. People have now woken up to the need to end this practice immediately,” Sharma added. “What we could not achieve in six years, Satyamev Jayate was able to achieve in two. One woman searched for me just to say that she felt guilty about the actions she had taken years ago.”
Shaktawat feels the change is visible even in the medical community. “After the show was telecast, doctors’ conscience awakened and they said they would not continue with the practice. A doctor from Dehradun contacted me and said that his thinking had been changed; he would longer be part of such a terrible practice. A doctor saying this it shows the extent of impact on people’s mindsets.”