| Brinda at the news conference. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Jan. 7: Facing an outcry over her charges against Swami Ramdev, Brinda Karat today said she had nothing against yoga and practised the art herself. Her main grouse was that the yoga guru’s “pharmacy” flouted labour laws by overworking and underpaying workers.
“I myself do yoga. I cannot be against yoga. I want it to be taught not just on television but in schools,” she told a news conference. “The workers who work the whole day should be able to learn yoga. It should be cheap and accessible to all.”
Brinda later added: “I learn yoga from a teacher who charges very little.”
The CPM politburo member also denied that she had a problem with animal or human bones being mixed in the yoga guru’s “herbal” cures ' she only wanted him to reveal the contents in keeping with the drugs and cosmetics act.
She made no mention of Ramdev’s claim that his “medicines” can cure ailments like cancer and heart block.
One of her party’s closest allies, Lalu Prasad, had earlier joked that it didn’t matter if the “medicines” contained the bones of humans or even “devils”, as long as they worked.
Brinda’s party colleague and Bengal minister Subhas Chakraborty, too, has taken a similar stand.
“I want to tell my comrades,” Brinda said, “we are not against mixing animal bones in the medicines. But people should know what they are taking.”
The brochure of Ramdev’s Divya Yog “pharmacy” says it uses only fresh herbs as ingredients, added Dipankar Mukherjee, fellow CPM MP.
“We are not against Ayurveda, Yunani or Siddha,” Brinda said. “Our party is the biggest promoter of Ayurveda in Kerala. Bengal is the biggest centre of homoeopath medicine. We are not against Indian sanskriti.”
The focus of the media conference, held at the Citu headquarters, however, was Ramdev’s violation of labour laws. The CPM presented some of the 113 workers sacked by his “pharmacy”.
The workers said they were underpaid, overworked and were witness to animal bones and human skulls being ground to powder.
“We have been agitating for eight months,” said Sushma Mishra. “All the VIPs go to Ramdev for lessons. So there was nobody we could approach for help,” added Chatrapal.
“Our demand is that the retrenched workers should be reinstated,” Brinda said.
The workers were paid Rs 1,300 to Rs 1,500 a month. The stipulated minimum wage is Rs 2,200 to Rs 2,500.