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Supreme Court Snubs Baba Ramdev

Ram Puniyani Ram Puniyani
15 Apr 2024

In the last couple of decades, we have seen the rapid rise of many Godmen. They also had a social presence earlier, but their social influence and political clout have been frightening lately. Many of them also had a dark belly, but by and large, that has been overlooked and shadowed by the made-up divinity shrouding them. Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati was accused of the murder of Ashram worker Shankararaman. In Sathya Sai Baba's Prashanti Nilayam also, there was a murder case. Gurmeet Ram Rahim carried on with his activities, and one journalist, Ram Chander Chhatrapati, was killed for bringing forward his black deeds. Finally, with difficulty, the law caught up with him, and currently, he is in jail or, rather, most of the time, on parole. Asaram Bapu is another one who succeeded in escaping the clutches of law for a long time, and finally, he is behind bars. These are just the tip of the iceberg, and spreading around the country, many such people are mesmerizing those trapped in blind faith. The riches of most of these are enviable.

Two others are worth mentioning: Sri Sri Ravishankar, who ravaged the Yamuna floodplains for his gala event. He was also associated with Anna Hazare's RSS-supported movement. He is in the news generally for subtly supporting Hindu nationalist politics. And then there is Baba Ramdev. He began his career as a Yoga Guru successfully and then transitioned to the business world with the brand Patanjali. Producing and marketing Ayurvedic products, this firm has brought Baba into the line of front-ranking business tycoons with huge assets. He and his close associate Acharya Balkrishna built up a massive, unchallenged empire until recently. All his Ayurveda products were publicized with great fanfare, and a large section of the media was gaga about his achievements.

The Acharya and Baba duo's academic qualifications are obscure. There are many Ayurvedic Medical Colleges, but it is doubtful if they acquired degrees from any of them. Many of their methods went unquestioned on the pretext that they posed an indigenous challenge to multinational corporations.

Matters came to a head during COVID-19. On one hand, the ruling government made hefty donations to the Pune-based Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN. On the other hand, within a month of the outbreak of the Pandemic, Baba came up with the claim that they had developed a medicine for the treatment and prevention of the disease dubbed Coronil. The claim was that it had the approval of the WHO. When challenged by the Ayush ministry, they corrected themselves by saying it had been developed according to WHO guidelines. Ayush ministry distanced itself from the claims of Baba. The Combo pack of Coronil was introduced with great fanfare in the presence of two Cabinet ministers, Dr Harshvardhan and Nitin Gadkari. Dr. Harshvardhan himself is a trained medical practitioner.

Baba claimed that the medicine had been tested on 100 patients of mild to moderate severity, and the test for COVID became negative in a few days. He had tied up with a few doctors for medical testing. The protocol of introducing medication in modern medicine is preceded by biochemical analysis, animal testing, and a clinical double-blind trial of adequate-sized samples. Not even a single one of these steps within the protocol was followed.

Overawed with his commercial success, he not only accepted the praise from most of the Godi media, but he also took a step further to call the Allopathic system a stupid science. Irked by this, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) filed a case against him, which was heard recently. First, he apologized to IMA for insulting modern medicine. When he sat on a hunger strike against corruption, he claimed he had a 'Yoga body' and could withstand the fast for a long time. Within a few days, his condition worsened, and he was admitted for allopathic treatment.

Similarly, a year ago, Acharya Balkrishna was seriously ill and had to be admitted to the ICU of an allopathic hospital. After the court's warning, his firm continued misleading advertisements. He apologized profusely, but the court refused to accept his apology and asked him to mend his ways and return. Other details withstanding, how come such unscientific knowledge and use of medications based on that have been rising for so long? One concedes there is a lot of empirical wisdom in some traditional medicines and even in Grandma's medicines. The point, however, is that the modern system of medicine is based on evidence and peer review. The knowledge is ruthlessly subjected to review and criticism.

However, unscientific knowledge and treatment systems are above criticism in our country. Many Babas have their own system of treatment. The protocol of medical systems has evolved by adapting to better systems. The likes of Ramdev take advantage of their perceived holiness to circumvent criticism and make as many statements as they like. He had proclaimed that he has treatment for Cancer, AIDS, and what have you. He even claimed that homosexuality is a disease and he can cure it!
So far, he has the protection of the 'system', which gave him the arrogance to downgrade the allopath and make irrational claims about 'his' system. And why are such Babas having a gala time with their claims?

The last few decades have seen the rise of religion-based politics. Parties supporting this ideology harp on the ancient Indian knowledge systems. Scientists and rationalists like Dr Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh, among others, demand that claims based on these be taken critically. They were done away for attempting to bring rationality. This is when rational thinking and methods are undermined in the glare of 'religion-based knowledge'. Even in our educational curriculum, in the name of 'Indian Knowledge systems', religion-based subjects will form part of the curriculum.

Baba Ramdev is a symptom of a society gripped by a religion-blind faith combo. The Supreme Court has done well in putting a small stop to this ascending 'Baba' trend in medicine.

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