A video of yoga tycoon Ramdev has gone viral on social media platforms in which he is seen and heard criticizing the practice of allopathy and its practitioners by calling it “stupid” and a failure amidst the pandemic. VINEET BHALLA and PRIYANKA DAVE write about the IMA’s strong response against these statements and lay out Ramdev’s past troubles with regard to false claims about COVID treatment.
viral video, Ramdev, addressing a public gathering, hurls offensive, mocking and discrediting statements at the whole of the practice of allopathy. In the video, he alleges that lakhs of people have died during the current pandemic due to taking prescribed allopathic medication such as fabiflu and remdesivir. He calls allopathy a “stupid and bankrupt science”, and states that more people have died inspite of hospitalization and allopathic medication than due to lack of oxygen and medical care.OGA guru and co-founder of Patanjali Ayurved and Patanjali Yogpeeth Ramdev is in hot water. In a recent
In this video, he also calls out “false allopathic research”, equates allopathic medication for COVID with poison, and holds it responsible for leading to an assortment of health conditions such as liver issues, diabetes, lung damage and respiratory failure, increased blood pressure, mental illnesses, sleeping disorder, neuro problems, brain strokes, cardiac arrests and immune-suppression among COVID patients.
IMA asks Centre to take action against Ramdev
The Indian Medical Association (IMA), the representative body of 3.5 lakh doctors across India, justifiably took umbrage at these defamatory statements and came out with a strongly-worded press release on Saturday, demanding that the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister prosecute Ramdev for the same. According to the IMA’s statement, Ramdev’s statements make him liable to be prosecuted under section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 read with section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).
The IMA alleges that Ramdev’s statements are meant to take advantage of the current pandemic and create fear and panic within people about allopathy in order to “sell his illegal and unapproved so-called medicines and make money at the cost of the public at large.” It terms his statements ‘anti-national’ for challenging the Indian Council of Medical Research, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Drugs Controller General of India, and the guidelines of the union health ministry and their potential to make gullible people “forego due treatment resulting in mass devastation in this pandemic”
The press release concludes by stating that if the Health Minister, who is himself a “practicing Modern Medicine allopathic postgraduate” does not book Ramdev for “his words of arson against the sovereignty of country”, he should “accept the challenge and accusation of the gentleman and dissolve the modern medical facility”. It also warns that if the minister does not take suo moto action against Ramdev, it will resort to “democractic means of struggle” and approach the courts.
The IMA sent a legal notice to Ramdev demanding a written apology and withdrawal of the statements, as also did the Federation of All-India Medical Association, condemning “baseless and unscrupulous claims made for cheap publicity”.
Ramdev’s Patanjali Yogpeeth denies IMA allegations
Later, Ramdev’s Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust issued a statement clarifying the guru meant no harm or offense to the practitioners or the study of allopathy. It also states that the video that has gone viral is actually edited and hence, takes out of context what Ramdev was saying at the private event where it was filmed.
According to the press release, Ramdev’s statement in the video was not his own, since he was merely reading out a WhatsApp message to his audience. The statement affirms Ramdev’s regard for all doctors and supporting staff, and calls for “unity among medical practitioners and their treatment-ways in order to overcome the present challenge successfully in a timely manner.”
Ramdev’s record of misrepresentation relating to COVID treatment
This is not the first time that Ramdev has ran into trouble over claims relating to the treatment of COVID patients.
In June last year, his company Patanjali Ayurved released a drug called Coronil, with Ramdev claiming that it cures COVID-19, without furnishing any evidence of its efficacy or even safety. The Union Ministry of AYUSH denied having given clearance for the launch of the new drug and directed the company to stop selling or advertising the product until its trial results were examined by medical authorities. A licensing officer from the Ayurved department of the Government of Uttarakhand later revealed
The medicine was banned from sale in Maharashtra, and Patanjali was barred from using the ‘Coronil’ trademark by the Madras High Court, which also fined it Rs. 10 lakhs. A criminal complaint was filed against Ramdev in Muzaffarpur seeking registration of a case under sections 120B, 270 and 420 of the IPC, among others, and a first information report was registered against him in Jaipur under section 420 of the IPC and sections 4 and 7 of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954, both for cheating and misleading the public through false advertisements.
In February this year, Ramdev announced that Coronil has received certification from the AYUSH ministry as per World Health Organization (WHO) norms as a drug that can be used as “supporting measure in Covid-19” and as an immuno-booster at a press meet attended by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Union Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari. This claim was endorsed by a spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). Ramdev is a vocal BJP supporter and has seemingly close ties with several of its top leaders.
The WHO had to clarify that they have neither reviewed nor certified the effectiveness of any traditional medicine for treating COVID. It later came out that Coronil had merely received a license for export, and had not received any approval regarding its effectiveness as a treatment against COVID.
On that occasion, too, the IMA had expressed shock at the “blatant lie of WHO certification” of Patanjali’s Coronil, questioned the Health Minister Harsh Vardhan for promoting the drug, and taken strong exception to Ramdev’s remark calling modern medicine “medical terrorism” at his press meet.
Ramdev is a hugely popular and influential figure in much of India, especially northern India, His constant presence on mainstream news channels shilling Patanjali products, and his visibility with the top political leadership of the country means that his words carry weight. Over the weekend, a doctor wrote that she has encountered some COVID patients over the past year who have demanded that they be treated with Coronil instead of steroids and Remdesivir that Ramdev claims have failed.
In this context, his impugned statements, at the very minimum, deserve censure from the Union Health Minister, as well as cognizance under the relevant sections of the IPC and the Epidemic Diseases Act, as demanded by the IMA.
A bit late in the day Vardhan wrote to Ramdev after the medical community raised its shock and concern at the remarks of the yoga guru. He wrote: “People of the country are hurt at your comments. Doctors and healthcare workers are working day and night in the war against Covid and are God-like figures. Your comments have not only disrespected the Covid warriors but also hurt the sentiments of people.”
He said that Ramdev must take back his unfortunate and objectionable statements completely.
Vardhan wrote this only after the IMA demanded that Ramdev be booked under the Epidemic Act for his comments.
In his letter, Vardhan said that when doctors and nurses had lost their lives catering to Covid patients, Ramdev had termed allopathy medicine’s usage in Covid treatment as “tamasha”, “bekaar” and “diwalia”, while the fact was that the country’s recovery rate of 88.69 percent and mortality rate of 1.14 percent was because of allopathy and doctors.
(Vineet Bhalla is a Delhi-based lawyer and part of The Leaflet’s staff. Priyanka Dave is a law student at Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, NMIMS, Mumbai, and an intern with The Leaflet. The views expressed are personal.)