Strange halo: Ramdev reprimanded
Soft spots are no bad thing, until politicians of the ruling regime display them selectively. Nothing can exemplify this better than the rather gentle rebuke administered by the Union health minister, Harsh Vardhan, to the television yoga teacher, Ramdev, who called allopathy a ‘stupid science’ that has killed more people than lack of oxygen and hospital beds. Mr Vardhan’s letter to him mentioned that his ‘extremely unfortunate’ remarks had hurt his countrymen, showed disrespect to corona warriors, demoralized healthcare workers and weakened the fight against the virus. But even this admonition, implying that Mr Ramdev was a towering influence on people’s self-esteem and opinions, came only after the Indian Medical Association and other doctors’ associations strongly criticized the government’s silence after Mr Ramdev’s remarks. They challenged Mr Vardhan, a surgeon himself, to either dissolve the modern medical facility or apply legal steps against Mr Ramdev, who, it is suspected, is just trying to increase the sale of Patanjali ayurvedic products. Mr Ramdev responded to the minister’s letter by ‘withdrawing’ his remarks, thus ‘putting to rest’ the controversy about ‘various medical practices’. How is it that this particular yoga teacher and seller of ayurvedic products — from among thousands — is given scope for such audacity?
The answer is still blowing in the wind. The prime minister’s love for yoga and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s ceaseless campaigning for ayurveda may account to some extent for the support that Mr Ramdev receives quite openly from the government. This is not the first time that the scientific community has expressed its outrage at Mr Ramdev’s claims. Yet Mr Vardhan shared the stage with him when he released a ‘research paper’ on the first ‘evidence-based’ medicine for Covid-19, endorsing a Patanjali product. Last year, he had launched Coronil, supposed to be a successful ayurvedic medicine for Covid-19, although the government later asked him not to advertise it as a cure. Trading on trust for commercial gain with false claims is not new. But what is mysterious is the government’s soft spot for a man who can scoff at Covid patients’ need for oxygen since it exists all around, while showing off breathing techniques. A television champion for yoga could be understandable, but does the BJP need a champion for the anti-scientific mindset too?