Many of us have watched the Nazar Suraksha Kawach advertisements on television, showing jewellary that apparently protect you from the evil eye.
We may brush them off but this has become a big business where companies cheat consumers and rake in the moolah. Sometimes, they rope in starlets to anchor mini adverts.
Recently, a voluntary organisation called Maharashtra [ Images ] Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) and the Maharashtra Blind Faith Eradication Committee asked the government to ban these advertisements on television.
"Television is a medium which influences a lot of people. These companies are misusing it by misguiding people," said Dr Narendra Dabholkar, the MANS chairman.
"There are hundreds of advertisements of Yantras, Kawach and other such products which claim to be endowed with supernatural powers. They trap the common man. After being bombarded by such ads, the common man tends to buy them only to realise that he has been cheated," Dabholkar added.
Why this sudden decision to oppose these ads? "We should have opposed it a long time ago but it's better later than never," he continues. "Such exhibitions reinforce blind faith in society and strengthen it. It is unconstitutional and injures social health. We are struggling for the special law of eradication of blind beliefs with the government of Maharashtra for more than 11 years. I guess it will take another two months to get it enacted."
The cable and TV network Act of 1994 states that programmes, which promote superstitious or its existence cannot be telecasted. The law also mentions that if such a thing happens, the person concerned can be prosecuted and imprisoned for two years.
"This is an independent movement and the government has not taken any action till now," Dabholkar added. "Recently our organisation has brought this to the notice of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ambika Soni."
He claimed that news channels show fake and manipulated photographs of ghosts. "News channels are no longer a source where people can get genuine news. Everyone is running for TRPs these days, and they show fraud things," he said.
He added that television shows about ghosts, horror and supernatural powers are also on the rise, and have become very popular among children.
Dabholkar will stage a protest on April 7 at the Azad Maidan at Churchgate, South Mumbai [ Images ], demanding that the government take action.
Dabholkar also wants an answer from the government to his question: Does the Constitution of India [ Images ], under the Right of Freedom of Expression, allow such things to be promoted and sold which ultimately misleads and cause injury to the mind of the viewers?
"Why is the government so relaxed about all these things?" he asks. "Just because they are benefiting from the TRP's too, they cannot allow such things to carry on. There are certifications provided by The Cinematograph Act 1952, which stipulate that anti-scientific visuals or words should not be exhibited."
In a land where people blindly follow superstition, it comes as no surprise that companies want to make the most of it.