By Dhiraj Kumar
All hell broke loose when Mr. Ramdev, India’s celebrated Yoga guru and the prime force behind India’s one of the largest FMCG companies- Patanjali accused “Allopathy” of not being able to cure Covid patients and killing them all. In a widely circulated video, Mr. Ramdev was seen addressing his followers saying, “lakhs have died from taking allopathic medicines for COVID-19.” In normal circumstances, the rantings could be ignored of anyone else but not of Mr. Ramdev who is revered by millions and owns the two largest religious television networks in Indian media. He further attacked Indian doctors stating, “many doctors have died of Covid as they could not cure themselves”. After a huge uproar in the doctor’s community led by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) reacted to the statements by Mr. Ramdev in his video and subsequent press releases and tweets though notices asking him to explain his views. Once the IMA attacked Mr. Ramdev, lesser-known individuals and organizations orchestrated an attack back on the IMA accusing the Government of India of neglecting Ayurveda. New channels were quick to label it as a war between “Allopathy Vs Ayurveda” & “Baba Vs Allopathy” where none existed till Mr. Ramdev showed doctors down. On Sunday, May 23, under pressure from doctors across the country, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan asked Baba Ramdev to withdraw his remarks, saying it disrespects ‘corona warriors’ and can break the morale of healthcare workers. Unrelenting, on the 24th of May, Mr. Ramdev issued an open letter asking the IMA 25 questions which stirred the debate further. The pinpointed questions were “Does the pharma industry have permanent treatment for thyroid, arthritis, colitis, and asthma?”, “What treatment is there for cholesterol.”, “if allopathy offered permanent relief from hypertension (BP) and type-1 and 2 diabetes”, “Does the pharma industry have treatment for migraine?”, “is there any allopathic medicine to turn a cruel person into kind?” and many others.
A few days later Mr. Ramdev issued a summarised statement “I am withdrawing my statement on allopathy and modern sciences and putting an end to this whole debate surrounding the field of medicines,”. He suddenly appeared in multiple news channels in “exclusive” interviews to claim he never said and did not mean to hurt doctors or modern science. In several heated debates on television, IMA took Mr. Ramdev head on asking him to prove his claims or withdraw his statements. This led to the next round of arguments when the country, reeling under the second wave, did not need this distraction. The Indian Medical Association and other eminent institutes wrote to the government to seek its help to initiate legal actions against Mr. Ramdev as per the Epidemic diseases act, 1897. IMA along with the Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA), Junior Doctors Association (JDA). Resident Doctors Associations (RDAs) and United Resident Doctors Associations (URDAs) held a nationwide ‘Black Day’ protest on 1st June 2021.
On the same day, June 1st, Mr. Ramdev put out a video announcing that chronic asthma could be cured completely under Ayurveda which can only be treated in allopathy by taking a patient to death. On June 2nd, Mr. Ramdev equated the Drug Mafia and Allopathy in the same breath by claiming to have exposed them, while pushing the agenda of Ayurveda, naturopathy spiritual science contrary to an interview to Aaj Tak, where Mr. Ramdev on 31st May said that his fight is against drug mafia and not Allopathy. This cocktail of Drug Mafia with Allopathy proposed by him was not only not justifiable but also not digestible. The same day he also tweeted that Allopathy may use surgery or lifesaving drugs to solve 2% of the critical cases but the remaining 98% was cured by Ayurveda and naturopathy. Mr. Ramdev also dragged Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar (who took to the hospital when infected by Covid) by tweeting his old video where Akshay is seen saying that the strength of Ayurveda cannot be matched by modern science by any “chemical injection”, also included the testament of Aamir Khan of having a big expose on unnecessary drugs though his popular chat show “Satyamev Jayate”, boldly asking the drug mafia to take on Aamir Khan. Mr. Ramdev as the founder of one of India’s largest FMCG company claimed of not doing business but taking care of all Indians and curing them with the help of Ayurveda. On the same day, he tweeted a video of 81 one-year-olds who he claimed to have defeated Coronavirus through the dosage of Coronil.
But what explains Mr. Ramdev’s sudden diatribe against doctors and allopathy. A few years ago, the launch of Patanjali set a cat among the pigeons in the FMCG industry when the business of giants like Dabur, Colgate, and Unilever seemed to have got affected by the rocketing sales of Patanjali’s toothpaste, ghee, atta, soaps, washing powder and the like. Patanjali forayed into “Covid medicine” when Union Ministers Harsh Vardhan and Nitin Gadkari along with Mr. Ramdev, launched Coronil tablets at a press conference, on Feb. 19, 2021. The claims made by Coronil shocked the IMA which is the respected body for certifying and giving credence to medicine in India.
Mr. Ramdev could not have chosen a worse time to attack doctors and Allopathy when India was reeling under the horrid second wave of Covid-19. With close to 3 crore cases in India and over lakhs of people dead, the people of India had reposed their faith in our doctors during the first Covid wave in 2020 and the second wave in 2021. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister had led a nationwide call to bang thaalis to thank the Covid warriors last year at the peak of the first wave thanking the doctors, nurses, and frontline workers who were working overtime to serve the suffering patients in hospitals. The second wave, which was even more severe and intense had again led the people to look up to the doctors to save the lives of their loved ones who themselves were infected by Covid during to the constant exposure at their workplace. A huge number of doctors have died due to Covid complications.
Mr. Ramdev is an exceptional Yoga guru who brought the wonders of Ayurveda before the current generation and explained its benefits through live events and television shows. As a brand ambassador of Ayurveda, he must avoid the conflict with Allopathy and choose a non-confrontational route to increase the usage and popularity of Ayurveda and Naturopathy. Choosing to attack revered doctors and modern medicine will impact the trust people repose in the medical solutions of today. Considering the large following and popularity he enjoys, Mr. Ramdev must focus on bringing the benefits of our ancient ayurvedic science positively without upsetting doctors and the medical fraternity.
Since ancient times, Indians have reaffirmed their belief in “Vaidyas” and “neem-hakeems” and even quacks to resolve their ailments. One of the most ancient veda is the Atharvaveda that includes mantras and verses for treating a variety of ailments dating back to 1000–900 BCE. The origins of Ayurveda date to the period between 600-200 BCE with some of the earliest references can be found in the Atharvaveda. Sacred books like the Charaka Saṃhitā , the Sushruta Samhita and the Aṣṭāṅgasaṅgraha extensively discuss Ayurveda and its benefits. From treating royal Mughal emperors to barbaric British rulers to us Indians post-Independence, doctors have played an important role in India’s development. The development of western medicine has paved the way for faster and instant solutions to medical problems. For the past many decades’ Indian doctors have used Allopathy to prove their mettle and have been applauded in multiple nations of the world and have been appointed Surgeon generals and heads of health institutions in their countries due to their exceptional intellect and service. Post-Independence, the most favored profession for parents to groom their child is to become a doctor, which is considered one of the noblest professions of all. Nehru’s vision to invest a lot of resources to open India’s greatest health institution- The All-India Institute of Medical Sciences was a tribute to the incredible doctors who were going to serve the nation for the next many decades.
Today the doctors are a worried lot, a demotivated set of professionals who need a healing touch and the gratitude of the nation to whom they have served effortlessly for decades.
(Dhiraj Kumar is an author and writer and he is writing his first book. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @authordhiraj.)