Why even Government’s ‘Baap’ will not arrest Ramdev

There is a strong case against him but as he himself said, ‘Unka baap bhi Swami Ramdev ko arrest nahi kar sakta’

Photo Courtesy: Social Media
Photo Courtesy: Social Media

Shalini Sahay

He heads a business empire which sells virtually everything. Soap, oil, biscuits, noodles, jeans, flour, detergents, herbal medicine and even cow urine. But he is best known as a ‘Televangelist’ who taught Yoga on TV and at special camps. His links with BJP are old and deep and Union Minister Babul Supriyo is on record admitting that it was a casual conversation with Ramdev in a flight that landed him an offer to contest the general election in 2014.

It, therefore, should not have come as a surprise when the Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan endorsed Patanjali Yogapeeth’s untested immunity booster ‘Coronil’; or when the ministry entrusted Seva Bharati affiliated to the RSS to distribute it or when the BJP government in Haryana buys Coronil from Patanjali and distributes it to the people. Public funds, apparently scarce for vaccines, find their way to Patanjali, which functions like a branch of the BJP, if not the government.

It is also public knowledge that the controversial Yoga teacher-cum-business tycoon has built up a real estate empire in the country. BJP-ruled states have gone out of their way to allot him land for Yoga teaching centres and his various businesses. The grapevine even speak of islands being handed over to the ‘Swami’, Ram Kishan Yadav in his earlier avatar.

The symbiotic relationship between the Yoga teacher and the BJP explains why no action will be taken against him under the Epidemic Act, as demanded by the Indian Medical Association (IMA). The national body of doctors practising modern medicine wrote a letter to the Prime Minister this week, demanding Ramdev’s arrest for his seditious comments to promote ‘vaccine hesitancy’ and untested and unscientific cures for Covid.

On the face of it, there is enough evidence to warrant Ramdev’s prosecution. In one of the earlier videos, Ramdev can be heard saying, "God has given us free oxygen, why don't we breathe that? How can there be a shortage when God has filled the atmosphere with oxygen? Fools are looking for oxygen cylinders. Just breathe the free oxygen. Why are you complaining about shortage of oxygen and beds and crematoriums?"

The flippant comment predictably upset the doctors. Ramdev was accused of being irresponsible and making unscientific statements. He was dared to visit the Covid ICU and demonstrate his claim by curing patients gasping for breath. Doctors pointed out that when the lungs stop functioning, patients need oxygen and not Yogic exercises.

But soon another video of Ramdev surfaced in which he is heard saying that allopathy is a "stupid science". In a third video he is heard reading out a purported WhatsApp message from someone with relish. A thousand doctors have died even after taking both shots of the vaccine, he reads out and exclaims: "What kind of doctors are these, who cannot even cure themselves?" In yet another video he is seen talking to relatives of people who had died of Covid in hospitals. The men in a state of shock tell him in detail how the best hospitals, doctors and medicine had been of no help.

In its letter to the Prime Minister, IMA contests his claims. As many as 753 doctors, it says, had died of Covid in the first wave and none of them had the benefit of any vaccine. Even the majority of the 513 doctors who have died in the second wave had not been fully vaccinated for various reasons. The letter points out that 0.6% of the vaccinated have been affected so far. By his irresponsible statements, IMA says, Ramdev has been sowing doubts about vaccines, doctors and modern medicine and he needs to be restrained.

A reason why Ramdev receives a free pass is because his Patanjali Group is a generous advertiser in the media. With hundreds of crores of rupees involved, few media houses have any incentive to take him on. The Government’s patronage makes media coverage and kid-gloves almost mandatory.

The doctors have rightly voiced their apprehension that by questioning modern medicine, Ramdev has endangered the lives of health workers. Mobs can be instigated into attacking doctors, public health workers and vaccinators. They also wonder how Ramdev has been able to hold Yoga camps in the middle of the lockdown. At a time when weddings and even funerals are restricted, how is he allowed to flout the guidelines?

There, thus, are multiple grounds to proceed against him under the Act, which has been used against people for social media posts doubting treatment protocols or for not putting on masks etc. Ramdev’s transgressions are far more serious.

But, obviously, he will not be brought to the book.

Views are personal

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