Yoga guru-turned-businessman, Baba Ramdev, has had his fair share of controversies in the past. He is back in the news following his sly comments on modern allopathic medicine. He can be heard on video, reading a WhatsApp forward that claims that “Allopathy ek stupid science hai (Allopathy is a stupid science)” and goes on to add that allopathic medicines have caused lakhs of deaths in the Covid-19 pandemic. He also said that more people have died from modern medicines than from the shortage of oxygen.
Moreover, he has now been filmed claiming that nobody’s father can arrest him, after the slew of lawsuits and defamation notices against him.
While in today’s Internet culture this will be meme material for a few days, before everyone moves on, it is important to realise that Ramdev is not some ordinary person who went viral for some funny statements.
Ramdev through his incredible work in teaching and preaching yoga in a country obsessed with naturopathy and driven by spirited nationalism, has established a cult-like following of loyalists who have invested their trust and faith in him. Such statements from a celebrity of his stature are not only irresponsible but are also potentially dangerous for the national good.
Modern medicine achievements
Here’s a reality check on the achievements of modern medicine:
First, we need to do a reality check for the respected guru and establish the marvels of modern medicine and its unparalleled achievements just in the past year in the context of the pandemic.
Within a year modern medicine has been able to detect and decode the genetic sequence of an entirely new pathogen, develop a fairly good understanding of how it affects the human body, and scientists all over the world have worked tirelessly together to develop not just one, but many vaccines at an unprecedented pace.
These vaccines are the only hope that humanity has of ending this dreadful pandemic.
Moreover, doctors, nurses and other medical personnel have slogged day and night to take care of the endless number of patients, putting themselves and their families at risk, fighting a completely new disease without any past research.
They have developed effective treatment protocols for patients with varying degrees of severity of illness and have in the process sacrificed their lives to save millions around the world.
Why the comments are irresponsible
Baba’s comments come at a time when the biggest challenge to humanity’s battle against this wretched virus is vaccine hesitancy.
The only way we can win this war against this unrelenting invisible enemy is if everyone comes forward to take the jab and stop the chain of transmission. In a situation like this, it is the moral and ethical obligation of anyone on a pedestal who enjoys a loyal fanbase and a trusting audience to use their voice and their platform for public good and encourage people to take their shots. This is their duty towards the nation and the people. This, in the true sense of the word, is nationalism.
Every person who gets influenced by his words and becomes averse to vaccination lends a massive blow to India’s Covid fight and Baba Ramdev must be held accountable for the consequences of his unconscientious and distasteful statements.
Yoga guru vs business tycoon
In retrospect, it is not so difficult to understand why Ramdev would say something like this. He may have been a yoga guru but now he is an unscrupulous business tycoon and he has used fear mongering in the past amongst his followers to promote his brand of ayurveda.
Moreover, being in the good books of the government has been an enabling factor for him and he has been making increasingly preposterous claims with little to no reprimand. A distrust in modern medicine can be a great reason for his followers to opt for his “Coronil” immunity-boosting medicine.
Never mind that “immunity boosting” does not have any credible scientific basis and nothing can give you immunity from the virus other than the vaccines. His medicines may pass safety tests but they have not passed any tests of effectiveness. There are no peer-reviewed studies nor any data, only the word of the respected yoga guru. Quite unfortunately for many of his followers, his word carries more weight than the mountains of evidence that modern medicine has to offer for itself.
This is not to say that ayurveda is not effective or that yoga is not beneficial. The entire world has realised the importance of yoga and meditation for general physical and mental well-being.
Ramdev has a massive contribution in spreading this gift to millions in India. Ayurveda has also been proved to be an effective form of supportive treatment in various conditions. What is important to understand is that yoga and ayurveda are a means to a healthier lifestyle, not a replacement for modern medicine. The two disciplines are complimentary, not opposing.
Although it is a pipe dream, I do hope that wisdom prevails and Guruji realises his responsibility towards the country and motivates his followers to continue to follow Covid appropriate behaviour and get the vaccines as soon as they can. This will be a greater service to the nation than any non-approved herbal health product that his company has to offer.
Nikhil Gupta is a student of Indian Institute of Technology Delhi