Ramdev and other Rasputins of the regime can cost their masters dearly
There is need to look at Ramdev’s business practices closely if only because of Pharma industry’s growing clout. His luck won’t last long and his claims can’t pass muster, writes Sujata Anandan
The primary factor responsible for the crusades in the middle-ages were bigotry and fascism. They later got deified and one of the most devastating examples is the influence of Grigori Rasputin over the Tsarina of Russia that eventually led to the decimation of the Romanov dynasty in the early 20th century.
Rogues, rascals and Rasputins have spelt the downfall of regimes and dynasties in the past. But somehow the Modi regime has lost sight of that historical fact and has allowed too many of their own Rasputins to flourish. While some of these Rasputins, like Asaram, have been dealt with, one particular bearded poseur is well on the way to tripping up the government.
If Yoga guru Ramdev is to be believed, the original idea for Demonetisation had come from him. With no grounding in public finance, economics or capitalism, he seemed to believe that the moment you derecognised currency of 500 or 1000 Rupee notes, all black money would come tumbling out and disappear from the country.
Nothing of the kind happened. Ramdev did not even have the intelligence to comprehend the fact that the poor, without any black money at all, would be the ones to suffer at the withdrawal of 85 percent of the currency from the market and the rich, with loads of black money, would trundle along happily, having many more means and resources to convert the black into white.
It was up to officials in the Modi government who, one presumes, were highly educated and had passed tough exams to get into government who should have warned the head of the government of the folly of falling for charlatans, mountebanks and shysters like Ramdev. Whether did or didn’t and whether Modi listened to them or not, the nation has had to pay a heavy price.
But I suppose one can overlook Ramdev's desire to be more than what he is or what he could be. But one would presume he would not be more than just a quack in his stated and professed stream of expertise – medicine, even if it is the traditional stream of Ayurveda.
One has to acknowledge that Ramdev has done more for commercializing and marketing Ayurvedic products than any other Ayurvedic company. It is equally true that his Patanjali Group overtook other long-standing Ayurvedic companies in the country and even leading multinationals had failed to realise the potential of this niche market before Patanjali came storming in.
But I will tell you why I prefer their Ayurvedic products to Patanjali's – they go through stricter Food and Drug Administration tests and there is no fakery about their products. I am not a believer in Patanjali but some of my family members are. When they raved about Patanjali's honey, I pointed out the sugar crystals forming at the top of the bottle. I backed off when that resulted in a bitter verbal duel. Then some months later there was complete silence on the dining table when the television blared that Germany had tested Patanjali's honey and found it mixed with Chinese fructose!
Chinese. That, I believe, is the key to Patanjali products. I cannot state this with any certainty and it will require deeper investigation but I have come across port workers in Navi Mumbai who claimed they were paid to stick ‘Made in India' labels on bottles offloaded from ships off China. If true, there is nothing wrong with it, except for the fraud perpetrated on the gullible people of India.
Most of the multinational products we use today, including phones, fast moving commercial goods and cosmetics, under various brand names are actually made in China. Except that they openly state so and acknowledge the fact on their products. But passing off Chinese products as Indian is what is fraudulent.
Just as there are not enough bees in India to produce the honey in the quantity that Patanjali claims to do, there are not enough desi cows across the country to manufacture the enormous quantities of pure ghee that Ramdev lays claim to. It is interesting that SK Patra, a former Patanjali CEO, had said that all that they did was collect honey from all brands and recycled them in their own bottles. And the white butter from which they made ghee could be from the cow as well as from the buffalo or the goat – no wonder my daal never tasted as good with the Patanjali ghee as it did with what my mother made from pure white butter!
But it is in Ramdev's claims to being a better doctor than the Allopaths of the world that his quackery comes to the fore. His own head of the Dairies operation, Sunil Bansal died of Covid and neither the much-hyped Coronil nor Ramdev’s other products to cure Covid could help the poor man.
If Patanjali had truly manufactured products that cured diabetes, hypertension, hepatitis and other common diseases, then one would have expected a take-over by multinational pharmaceutical companies. Or Patanjali could have become part of a global conglomerate. There is no industry anywhere in the world that is more cut throat than the pharma industry and it brooks no competition. The fact that it is the only industry that has profited during the pandemic is reason enough to look on them warily and closely. If Coronil or anything else that Ramdev professes as a cure for the virus was effective enough, they would also have patented them globally long ago.
Ramdev therefore has no right to mock those health workers, including doctors, who have been risking their lives ever since the outbreak of the pandemic. Ramdev who is arrogant enough to believe no one can arrest him has got lucky with the Modi regime which has been treating him with kid gloves for long. But he will not remain lucky forever. Just like Grigori Rasputin, pretending his divinity would cure the Tsar's son when modern medicine couldn't, brought down the Romanovs with him, the Modi government must beware mollycoddling Ramdev could have disastrous consequences for themselves.
(The writer is a leading columnist and commentator. Views are personal)