On 20th June, we wrote how Satyamev Jayate (SMJ), the do-gooding show that was to redefine prime time and claimed to reach a massive 40 crore Indians (over just five episodes) had collected just Rs1.7 crore for seven NGOs so far. Of this Rs85.25 lakh has come from Reliance Foundation (numbers provided by them), which had offered to match the donations received from others.
SMJ’s website (www.satyamevjayate.in) had 13 NGOs on the list, of which seven received the funds until then: Unique Home for Girls, Snehalaya, Amarjyoti School, Family of Disabled, Himmat, Childline and Azad Foundation.
While I wrote to Reliance Foundation, I also contacted SMJ’s official PR agency (Hanmer MS&L) listed on its website and asked for the donation numbers. Late that night, after our report was published, a Hanmer executive wrote to say that she didn’t have the numbers, but the Rs85.25 lakh that Reliance Foundation had paid reflected only the first five days of donation and that Snehalaya had in fact received Rs70 lakh. She promised to get me the exact numbers by 21st June afternoon.
This was after seven episodes had already been aired. We sent a reminder on 23rd June and also pointed out a mistake in the “terms & conditions”, which said that the exact donations received would be announced on Asar, a programmed aired on Aaj Takchannel every Friday night. In fact Asaris aired on ABP News, formerly Star News. This gross mistake was corrected on 25th June along with certain other changes.
Finally on 25th June (seven weeks after the show went on air), five days after our report, the Hanmer PR person wrote to say SMJ has received Rs1.9 crore through Axis Bank and another Rs25 to Rs30 lakh through text messages (so much for precision and disclosures), which means “Rs3 crore plus” of donations after adding “Rs85 lakh donated by Reliance”. She writes, “Reliance only doubles the amount collected in the first week (after telecast date). From a legal perspective, there needs to be a cut off date for Reliance to double the amount”.
But hasn’t Aamir Khan been looking us in the eye (through our TV screens) and telling us that Reliance Foundation will match the donations received? Then why is its contribution less than half the total received? As always, Reliance Foundation seems to have bargained a phenomenal deal—a big dollop of publicity for Nita Ambani’s plans to change the world, being economic with the truth (in terms of what it would match) and coughing up just Rs85 lakh over six weeks, when advertisers have been paying Rs8-Rs10 lakh for a 10 second spot! Bharti Airtel, the presenting sponsor, is understood to have paid Rs17-Rs20 crore while associate sponsors (Skoda, Coca Cola, Axis Bank, etc.) have paid Rs6-Rs7 crore each for far less visibility than Reliance. Why don’t the terms and conditions mention that Reliance Foundation only matches donations of the first week?
Naturally, we found this breezy obfuscation unacceptable and demanded a break up. By now, Star India officials had corrected the terms and conditions and updated the website. They have finally updated the website to say that the show had yielded—630,298,439 connections, 8,839,494 responses, 2,778,984 community members and Rs30,160,678 in donations. There was still no clarity about how these figures were arrived at and who got how much. On asking for a detailed break-up, we received an email from them.
The numbers are interesting (see table). Data for the first two episodes indicates that nearly half the donations were received in the second week after the telecast, despite the flutter on social media caused by the programme’s first episode. Secondly, Snehalaya, the NGO featured in the first programme garnered Rs1.3 crore or nearly half the total donations generated by the first six shows. Yet, barely 2.2% were through sms. Digital marketing experts may explain why sms-happy Indians were so reluctant to donate through texts, but apparently donated through more cumbersome online contributions to Axis Bank, that too a week after the episode. It will be interesting to see how many of the Axis Bank donations came from overseas transfers.
Childline and Himmat managed to attract the next highest number of donations (around Rs40 lakh each) while The Humanity Trust, West Bengal which has been subject of nasty innuendo because it was confused with another trust of the same name (finally corrected and explained by SMJ’s website only on 25th June) had the third highest collection of Rs27 lakh. But given the fact that it is this show that probably had the maximum impact on public consciousness, the amount collected was strangely too small.
What is however evident from the numbers, is that SMJ is fast losing steam. Only two episodes have really made waves—the first on female foeticide, mainly because it startled people and the second on medical malpractices, because it affects us all. Also, the massive clout of the pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturers ensures that we get to know so little of the sleazy underbelly healthcare sector. In fact, media reports on medical malpractice rarely go beyond doctor’s negligence.
The political class, which was wary after the first episode, has now begun to ignore the show. SMJ still has the potential to pack a punch for social transformation, but it needs some changes. For one, many viewers say that 90 minutes is far too long on a Sunday morning and there is no follow up action from the producers. They and Aamir Khan Productions obviously expected to just sit back and rake in the moolah and the glory. If activism could be reduced to show business, India would not need drastic transformation 65 years after independence.
(The article was first published in the Moneylife)