Papon Controversy Raises Questions on Children’s Safety in Reality TV

minor girl aggressor, Mumbai court sexual abuse victims

Singer-composer Papon was caught kissing a minor contestant from a reality TV show, in a Facebook broadcast. While people are still debating over whether the kiss seems intentional, or accidental. A Supreme Court lawyer filed a complaint with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (POCSO) against the singer today. Papon, who is mentoring the said minor on the show, is yet to comment on the issue. But this incident has also given rise to another conversation. That of the safety and lifestyle of children who participate in reality television shows in our country.

Reality TV shows featuring minors are nearly unpalatable in India

Well, the same is true for almost all reality shows which air across various channels and languages. These shows deliberately try and manipulate the viewers to take them on an emotional ride. The contestants ask for votes with a dollop of personal tragedies and desperation.

Reality shows in India cater more to our need for emotional drama and sentiments, than to the celebration of talent.

Things just go from bad to worse in the case of kids’ reality shows. There is little fun in watching these children performing antiques and animating each other, just to fill up the time slot. They flatter the judges, dance on item numbers, and even mouth filmy dialogues that are not even suitable for adults. The desperation to succeed is so palpable in their eyes.

But this is all that is bothersome on screen, while no one asks questions about what goes behind the scenes at these reality shows. Writer-director Amole Gupte, who is renowned for making children’s films like Stanley ka Dabba, Sniff and writing Taare Zameen Par called these shows cruel and barbaric in an interview last year.

Gupte  described how a day in the life of a child contestant unfolded on these reality shows.

“They are brought from distant towns to Mumbai and huddled into cheap hotels with their parents. Every morning, they have to travel to the TV studio for rehearsals. These kids are wrenched away from all normal activities and are thrown into a single-minded devotion to lending their voices to these reality shows. They are made to shoot for countless hours, sometimes in humid non-air-conditioned rooms. It’s barbaric.”

Why do we encourage endangerment of children in the name of entertainment?

Even if the allegations against Papon are debatable, labouring for hours, away from schools and playgrounds is not how a kid should spend his or her childhood.

It is astonishing that parents willingly risk proper schooling, recreation and normal lifestyle of their children to fulfill their own ambitions.

How secure are these children on the premises of such shows? Why doesn’t anybody question about the physical, mental and emotional well being of these children? Who will be responsible, if at all the allegations against the singer are true? Even if the accusations are false, how sure are the parents that their children are in right hands? In a country where one in two children faces sexual abuse, the priority should be to ensure the safety of these children. And yet we do not ask any questions.

Picture Credits: IndiaTimes

Also Read : “Television needs to reinvent itself”- Naghma Sahar at Juxtapose

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own