he egregiously false claim made in the presence of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan by Baba Ramdev that his Patanjali product Coronil is the “first evidence-based medicine for Covid-19” having World Health Organisation (WHO) certification has shocked the medical community and brought into focus the fraud and thuggery practised in the name of yoga and spiritual powers. Monks and so-called spiritual gurus exerting extra-constitutional influence on rulers, including monarchs, Prime Ministers and politicians has been a regular practice for centuries in India. However, it has become a flourishing commercial enterprise in recent times. It goes without saying political patronage has emboldened these so-called Babas to stoop to any level to satisfy their lust for power and pelf. Of course, the Union Health Minister cannot be held directly culpable for such false claims yet his presence definitely lent credibility to such baseless utterances. Baba Ramdev even had the gumption to call modern medicine a form of “medical terrorism.” The Health Minister is supposed to supervise implementation of the task of vaccinating the population against Covid-19 at a cost of Rs 35,000 crore. That is why his silence in the meeting is surprising. What is more surprising is the Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan is himself a doctor of medicine.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) is quite rightly bristling with anger at the Centre’s endorsement of “an unscientific product” as a drug that can be used as a “supportive treatment” for coronavirus. Within 24 hours of the false claim, WHO clarified that it had not reviewed or certified the effectiveness of any traditional medicine. It was Ramdev who peddled the lie while launching the product on February 19 in the presence of Dr Harsh Vardan and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari that a team of the global health body had visited his company and given Coronil the licence for sale in more than 150 countries. He also released a “research” paper by Patanjali Ayurved on what he claimed was the “first evidence-based medicine.” This, according to him, would clear all “suspicions” surrounding Coronil.
The complicity of the Union ministers in this dangerous venture is such that the party’s spokesperson Sanju Verma tweeted that Coronil getting approval from the Drugs Controller General of India and WHO was “no less (than) a huge endorsement for Ayurveda and India’s homegrown startup ecosystem that has flourished under the Modi government.”
The IMA’s letter to the Union Health Minister dated 22 February 2021, in response to these false claims should leave him red faced if he wants to rise above his party’s political creed and be true to his medical profession. “Being a Health Minister of the country, how justified is it to release such falsely fabricated unscientific product to people of the whole country and how ethical was it to promote the product in unethical, wrong and false ways,” IMA National President Jayalal asked in his letter.
The IMA showed courage to warn the government against adulterating Ayurveda “on the pretext of market gain to some monopoly corporate and create a disaster for humanity.”
The Patanjali group has been trying to make profits using the fear of people for Covid since June 23, 2020 when it first introduced Coronil. But, the government decided not to give its approval in the teeth of fierce criticism as it lacked scientific evidence regarding its efficacy.
Clearly, the phenomenal profit and global market for anti-Covid drugs or vaccines have proved to be too tempting for the group to make a second attempt to get its share in the lucrative business.
So-called spiritual mentors such as Rasputin in monarchical Russia and Dhirendra Brahmachari of India had used their closeness to the powers that be to advance their personal agenda of greed. Rasputin enthralled Russia’s Emperor Nicholas and Empress Alexandra with his supposed mystic quality and hijacked the power of the throne during the early years of the last century. Dhirendra Brahmachari also had Indira Gandhi under his orbit of influence during the Emergency and used his political clout for dubious ventures.
Ramdev has been using his skill in yogic exercises for advertising products from his Patanjali stable and building a multi-million dollar business enterprise. His closeness to top BJP leadership has turned out to be a boon for him.
Political patronage has spawned many funny Babas including Asaram Bapu and Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
It’s time the people in government refrain from putting the seal of legitimacy on such unsavoury deeds and the characters involved. While it is easy to blame politicians, the truth cannot be denied that it is the common people who flock to these Babas and make them popular. Once these Babas gain a large following, politicians notice and acknowledge them. Change in this system can only come when citizens, looking for a quick fix, also learn to question.