The truth about Satyamev Jayate’s donations

The donation numbers look strange, the actual terms and conditions are not so clear and the show is flagging


On 20th June, Moneylife 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 ( 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 Tak channel every Friday night. In fact Asar is 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.

8 years ago
I dug a little on the SMS donation and found this

Assuming that Airtel also charges the same as UK operators which the site confirms in it's T&C ( Rule 2A.2.3 "after the deduction of the mobile operator’s share and applicable government taxes and other service charges.") Isn't it gross misrepresentation when Aamir Khan says '5 Rs from each SMS will go to towards the NGO'?
Praney Sharma
8 years ago
What is the objective of the Satyamev Jayate Trust and who are the trustees of the Trust and what are their background. Just by highlighting sensitive issues you can't bring about changes in the society therefore there must be follow up for actual benefits to people.
Ramesh Poapt
9 years ago
This is high time to check up deeper on the working of the NGOs. A separate survey may please be done and it may please be taken up by ML and kindly publish it in ML.Lots of CSR activities taking place thru NGOs.Though basically it is a welcome change, much needed one.
Veeresh Malik
9 years ago
The said NGO "HUMANITY TRUST" does not display any information under RTI nor does it place its accounts up for open scrutiny.

Nor can any other real information be found anywhere online as yet.
Nagesh Kini
Replied to Veeresh Malik comment 9 years ago
It is time that the GOI comes out with pre-approving names for trusts to be registered and a new mechanism for getting those already registered by insisting on those latter with similar names to carry out changes. when it can be done for companies and product names it should not be difficult for registered trusts as well.
Sucheta Dalal
Replied to Veeresh Malik comment 9 years ago
Veeresh. There are at least three Humanity Trusts in India. That is how we work . Bu the one that got the donations is a legitimate NGO that is doing excellent work. I have posted this and details in some of my comments at the time the show was on last year.
Mr Hi Fi
1 decade ago
mohd jaffer
1 decade ago
i have got a mail from reliance
The Reliance Foundation would like to inform you that you have been chosen by the board of directors as one of the final recipients of a cash Grant/Donation for your own personal, educational, and business development in order to reduce the poverty rate in your Community. Reliance Foundation was established in 1966 Mumbai, Maharashtra, Indiaby His Highness the Dhirubhai Ambani the organization's chairperson and driving force, to celebrate the new year 46th anniversary program, Reliance Foundation is giving out a yearly donation of (Rs.6 Crores) to each lucky recipients all over India by which At least 15% of the awarded funds should be used by you to develop your local communities.

This is a yearly program which is a measure of universal development strategy, for further information on how to transfer the donation cash awards to you contact foreign exchange department reserve bank of India with your complete Name; Address; Age: Contact Phone Number & Country of Residence through this e-mail Address:
( [email protected] )

We the Board of directors of the Reliance Foundation Congratulate you.
Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director (CMD), Reliance Industries Ltd

London Office
Tel :+447017413853
Fax :44364474647
Mail: P.O. Box 5825 London
Name Robert Walpole
1 decade ago
Good details . My compliments for presenting the facts and transparency to the public.

Mohan Siroya
Arhant Jain
1 decade ago
Completely agree with Chitra Raman. Aamir does not claim to change the world but only highlight the important issues. Thanks to ML for the activism but pls keep the skepticism away and support whole heartedly.
1 decade ago
The world of charity is not necessarily of human beings with charitable dispensation. Charity is big business, a very big vote catching machinery, a most reliable path to get international awards and recognition, and certainly a source of acquisition of wealth--the most powerful weapon of power.
1 decade ago
Chitra Raman
1 decade ago
Ms. Dalal, while I am glad people like you are keeping a watchful eye out and making sure that people put their money where their mouth is,I am disgusted with the mean-spiritedness with which Aamir Khan has been dealt with by certain sections of the media and viewers. After all he is not claiming to be an avatar or a prophet. He has presented his goal right from the get-go as being a catalyst to get people thinking about the issues he presents.

During my last visit to India I found everything about the television landscape geared to getting people riled up-- and the more they got riled up the more immobile they seemed to get.

In Satyameva Jayate you have a program format that presents a problem, presents people who have dealt with it or overcome/transcended it, and tells you that YOU have the power to get off your duff and make a difference. Change after all begins with attitude. Why are people being so negative and looking only at the moolah that Aamir Khan is supposed to be raking in? There are so many avenues open to him for moolah -- his colleagues like ShahRukh Khan are after all not past posing for skin-lightening creams(nauseating); Saif Ali Khan moves his hips for potato chips; and Amitabh Bachchan endorses cement and insurance and who knows what else.

Sure, by all means hold Reliance accountable for delivering on their stated promise. But don't sneer at someone who steps forward with an innovative and well-intentioned initiative and portray it as "activism reduced to show business." It is being reduced to show business only by moomphali-chewing couch potatoes who are content to sit by the sidelines like vultures waiting for the next carcass to pick at.

Unless the soul of India is dead, I am counting on there being idealistic people, young and mature among the show's wider audience for whom activism will EVOLVE from show business. Or, if they are activists already, that they will feel a sense of validation and comradeship with the causes portrayed. They will know that their work does matter -- even if they are making a difference in the life of ONE person, that their efforts are not worthless or futile. They might make more efforts to connect with like-minded people who share their values and vision instead of seeing opportunities only in terms of opportunities to curse the status quo, seeing challenges as not worth attempting because failure is inevitable.

There is no television program, no force on earth that can shake people out of this copout mentality -- unless they feel inside that it is worth it. Aamir is merely the vehicle for the much-needed message that we're all in this together and each one of us can be either part of the problem or part of the solution. A good beginning would be for people to shut out the noise and suck in the substance.
CarolineT Dalvi
Replied to Chitra Raman comment 1 decade ago
Dear Chitra,

Rightly said! Amir is only a catalyst to get us thinking. And kudos to him for that!

The problem is not just in the authorities. The problem is in us, we Indians who gloat & sneer over our prosperity in one hand and the poverty in another!

Unless, we stand up now for our common good, can't say what will be India's future in the next decade!
P M Ravindran
1 decade ago
Atleast I, for one, am not surprised. By and large it must the same viewers who must be watching the show and how much can they donate to charity? Personally I am very much against charity because essentially it is for taking care of our weaker sections that we need a government at all and all that we can see our people in govt doing is looting in the name of these very same weaker sections. So, to my mind atleast, priority one for any socially conscious citizen should be making the people in govt deliver. We have just heard about eh Kolkatta high court order in the Singur case. What a tragedy that the courts hold displacing the poor to acquire land and give it to MNCs legally tenable and the reverse untenable!

Coming to SMJ specifically, I have no doubt that Aamir Khan can easily carry the show on his shoulders. The SMSes and donations are only bonuses. In any case the charities sponsored by SMJ are not the only charities that need citizen support. I must say that it is the charities spread all over the country that is holding the maoists and naxalites at bay. Ther are plenty of them doing good jobs. For example Devasharayam, Chirakuakal, Karunya, Chaitanya in Palakkad. Whatever little I can spare after 'wasting' most of my income in judicial reform and RTI related activities, goes to these charitable organisations. They are in my neighborhood and I do see the fruits of their labour!
Rajiv Chawla
1 decade ago
We live in times where it's not easy to believe messages, ads, sermons, agents advisories. From claims and promises in ads & messages for sale of products to Insurance Policies, there remain issues & gaps. We have, therefore, become extremely sceptic. May be rightly so in some cases. However, we must let live and breath new saner, thoughts, ideas and presentations which are radically different and content wise well researched and positive. It's not strange when people like me, who have spent thousands to lacs in our lifetime on pilgrimages, stones & rings that we wear, rites & rituals, the amounts spent on various pujas, food for monkeys, draining food, sweets, fruits & pulses in flowing water, Food to dog, crow etc during shraadh, year after year and much much more, do not question the logic or rationale, however, and I admit, I haven't donated a single penny to any of the NGOs or causes that I've seen in the programme so far, even though I've been touched at times and also believe in the suggested solutions. Why am I taking so long? Would I have thought as much when I hear a Swami giving Upaaya which promises miracles straight from God or any of His subsidiaries? May be I'm not used to this. Not to be disheartened. Collection in case of SatyamevJayate or similar programmes shall always be less than 'SMS' collections at "Kaun Banega Crorepati" or the "Voting for Singing or Dancing Stars in TV Contests". We donate more to Nirmal & many Babas, Gurus & Swamis in sheer hope of 'miracles' to take care of our ailments and pains rather than strengthening institutions that work in those areas. Even donations to Mother Teresa and other notable foundations would be far less than JaiGuru Dev or Sai Baba or many other religious institutions and temples. Therefore, collection of money is no criterion to gauge a programme that aims at awakening, educating, providing right thoughts and giving option to donate without invoking God or religion. We need to wake up even to the fact that even money spent on 'Prasadam' on Tuesday or Thursday or any other day does not guarantee miracle, while a single rupee to these causes may make a difference. And if any Foundation or CSR activity makes promise to double the collection, it is welcome to and need to be encouraged, more so, if the offer is open ended and they keep doubling over a longer period. In fact, and I repeat, we as TV viewers need time to let the thought of donations to these or similar institutions percolate deep, and actually make donation. Because, we are not used to it. Miracle, in real life, lies in the hearts and mind of people. Hope it works soon. I see Satyamev Jayate making impact at the mass level.
Replied to Rajiv Chawla comment 1 decade ago
I really like your comment. It is from the heart and so true. Instead of the moralising by others, who do not want to read what Moneylife has been saying about SMJ and the support lent to the programme so far, this is by far the most touching response I have read.

I also suspect that some of the criticism about this article is from producers of the show. I cant see how regular readers of this web-zine would have failed to notice the support to Aamir Khan's show by Moneylife.

Also, as a reader, I am here because i get to read views that others dont dare to voice.
I would only say Kudos to Mr Chawla and keep it up Moneylife. The expose was required, ignore the whiners who will crib whatever you do. And of course the vested interests in the garb of saints!
Ramesh Poapt
1 decade ago
SMJ-good show broadly,sensitized people on valid must go on!good effort indeed!but the above figures seems far from 'satyamev'-not'satyam'.AK seems serious prima facie.barring this, he is very smart businessman!better than many khans though!
1 decade ago
The article is great as usual, i would like to make just one point why we are treating AMIR AS GOD, he can be honest/corrupt but yes as mentioned in the article he must inform the viewers about the actual terms and conditions. Sjm is doing good job but it will be appreciated if they maintain the transparency towards the donations.The SJM would become a rocking show if they keep track of steps taken after the previous episode and highlights it in the next show otherwise its just "fire and forget" for both presenter and viewer.At last i want to say that we are expecting too much from sjm; its just a show taking up public issues but ITS NOT COMPLETE SAMAJ SEVA.
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