When a young man from a village in Haryana took the hot seat opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Kaun Banega Crorepati three days ago, no one in Madana Khurd cheered, not even when contestant Rishi Raj walked away with Rs 12 lakh as prize money.
Because on the show, a village called Madana in Jhajjar, the district with the lowest sex ratio in the country as per the 2011 census, was introduced as one where female foeticide and infanticide was still rampant.
To make the point, KBC even showed a board, purportedly in the village of Madana, which read “Abortion — Rs 500 + Medicine disposable extra. Get an abortion for Rs 500.”
The lower portion of the board was blurred in the video while a voice declared that “the writing on this board behind me says a lot of things”.
The Indian Express visited Madana Khurd and the adjoining Madana Kalan and found that no such board exists in either of the two villages. Nor do residents, including the family of contestant Rishi Raj, have any idea who were two of the three “residents of Madana” shown in the KBC video.
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The third person in the video, Deep Chand, lives in Madana Khurd. He says he told the KBC team that female foeticide and infanticide was no longer practised in the village but “I am told they have not carried that statement”.
According to Rishi’s family, a KBC team visited the village a few days before the episode was recorded in a Mumbai studio on July 25.
Sukhbir Singh, Rishi’s brother-in-law who had accompanied him to Mumbai, told The Indian Express: “Two of the men in the video are not even from our village. A bearded man had come to the village with them. They may have been from another village.”
In the video, one of the two men says “in our place, no one wants a girl to be born because if a daughter is born, they will have to pay dowry. If it’s a son, they will bring dowry.” The second man says “if it is known that a girl will be born, it is aborted.”
On the show, host Amitabh Bachchan speaks on the practice of female foeticide. Contestant Rishi Raj says he has two daughters and he will use the prize money to educate them.
Both Madana Khurd and Madana Kalan feel aggrieved. Trilok Chand, head of the Madana Kalan panchayat, said: “The information given on the show is completely wrong. Tell us, where are those boards? I have not seen the show but I read about it in the newspapers. Why are these allegations being made against our village? There is an attempt to malign the village and the district. We are planning to approach the CMO to decide the next course of action.”
Madana Khurd counterpart Bani Singh agrees. “I don’t know where they got the board or poster from. I have only seen the poster in the papers. There is no such poster in our village, no such practice. I got a call from an official in the health department who was inquiring about this.”
Rishi Raj’s father Rameshwar Kumar said: “What is the point of winning? We were better off without this controversy.”
Located next to each other, Madana Kalan and Madana Khurd together have a population of 3,550 – 1,886 males and 1,664 females. Health department officials said boys up to the age of 1 number 28 and girls 26.
Ramesh Dhankar, Chief Medical Officer, Jhajjar, said: “This data was collected Thursday after a team of ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activist) and interns from PGIMS, Rohtak conducted a survey in the two villages.”
While acknowledging that the district had recorded one of the lowest child sex ratio in the country, Dhankar denied knowledge of any abortion-pill board or poster in the area.
Jhajjar Deputy Commissioner Chander Shekhar said teams visited the village to check but did not find any such board. “These things have been created for ratings. We accept that there is a problem and such things are happening but you cannot have such a board in the open. I have got fresh data from the CMO’s office… The sex ratio needs to improve and steps are being taken. But to cook up such a story is unfortunate,” he said.
When comments were sought from Sony Entertainment Television which hosts the KBC show, Gaurav Seth, the channel’s marketing head, said the matter had been brought to the notice of Siddhartha Basu, chairman and managing director of BIG Synergy Media Ltd which is the KBC production company, and that an investigation was underway. Basu did not respond to a questionnaire emailed to him.