Sun, 22 Sep, 2019

Profiting From Religion

By Shrijak Shrestha

Every day, we can find different kinds of religious products like Najar Surakshya Kawaz, Rudrakshya etc. being marketed on the Indian channels such as Zee TV, Colors etc. These advertisements, usually consisting of Indian celebrities such as the old bald guy from the CID serial, claim the products to have different kinds of divine powers.  Each advertisement consists of testimonies of people, who are clearly not poorly paid bad actors, claiming the great effects the products had on their lives. One of the advertisements currently being aired is of the Hanuman Chalisa Yantra. From the testimonies, it seems that this yantra can get you everything from a promotion to a beautiful wife.

Hundreds of such products are marketed every year on television which generates profit from the gullible minds and religious sentiments of the consumers. Since the advertisements of these products receive a considerable amount of air play on major Indian television networks, it is safe to say they generate considerable amount of profits. And unlike other products, there is no way of testing the validity of these products. The channels that air these commercials also take no responsibility for the content. And these advertisements receive no major criticisms maybe due to the touchy nature of religion itself. There are thousands of complaints regarding these products in different forums and yet no major action has been taken till now on this issue.

False and misleading advertising is rampant in the Indian media. Mass media has the power to influence a person’s mind and shape a society, and yet we have minimum control over it. From health drinks to cosmetic products, each and every section of consumer good providers uses false advertising. And these commercials often lead a consumer into an unfavorable commercial transaction. It is basically a freedom of exploitation.

Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is the only body in India that monitors advertising content.  It is a self regulatory body that reviews advertisements only after they have been released based on consumer complaints. It then files lawsuits against the companies. It has been ineffective so far. Every month hundreds of complaints are filed against misleading advertisers; however, nothing significant has been done yet. Also, companies do not have to go through any organization that reviews the content before airing a commercial, providing them the freedom to exploit.

This is a major issue for India and for Nepal as well, and the governments need to take proper actions to combat this issue and protect consumer rights.