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  Opinion   Columnists  19 Apr 2024  Shobhaa De | The garam hawa of Dilli is getting even more garam…

Shobhaa De | The garam hawa of Dilli is getting even more garam…

Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. You can reach her at: @ShobhaaDe(Instagram) and @DeShobhaa(Twitter).
Published : Apr 19, 2024, 11:59 pm IST
Updated : Apr 19, 2024, 11:59 pm IST

Baba Ramdev's Apology: Too Little, Too Late for His Alleged Frauds

Yoga guru Ramdev arrives at the Supreme Court for hearing on the Patanjali misleading advertisements case, in New Delhi, Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (PTI Photo)
 Yoga guru Ramdev arrives at the Supreme Court for hearing on the Patanjali misleading advertisements case, in New Delhi, Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (PTI Photo)

Thank God I was never fooled by that mega fraudster Baba Ramdev. Yes, the same saffron dhoti-clad yogi who can turn his body into a pretzel, stand on his head. The very one who exudes more turbo-charged energy than Ranveer Singh on a high. But a fraud he remains. A dangerous fraud at that. Imagine someone like Ramdev conning people this blatantly in any other democracy. A man with zero medical credentials! No accountability. No scrutiny. No questions asked as he set about creating a massive business empire selling “çures” to millions of gullible, vulnerable victims. His innumerable “Patanjali” medical stores operated without licences. His dodgy “ayurveda” products flooded the market without any regulatory agency clearing those mysterious drugs. His false claims went unchallenged. And nearly every state in India gave him land to set up factories to mass-manufacture a wide range of ayurvedic remedies promising miracles to the unwary. Were any of his factories subjected to the rigorous tests which are mandatory for the rest? Was even a single raid conducted to verify his claims? Nobody dared to take him on, as he brazenly went about illegally marketing himself. He was not sued. Nor was he exposed even by those who suffered because of him.

Fortunately for us -- the sceptics and watchdogs -- the Patanjali Ayurved co-founder and self-styled “Baba” was pleading for “forgiveness” in the Supreme Court this week, along with his equally manipulative aide, Acharya Balkrishna, for issuing misleading advertisements. The bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah have granted the duo a week to prove they were remorseful of their actions. A public apology is overdue. But is it enough? Thanks to two doctors from the Indian Medical Association (IMA), some action is finally been taken to address serious public health issues and expose the nefarious activities of the hirsute “baba” and his partner in crime. Said Dr Ranjan Sharma, former IMA president: “When we were fighting a war against Covid-19, Ramdev made fun of scientific medicine. When we were mourning the death of our 800 colleagues, he kept saying “doctors who cannot save themselves, cannot save the public”. Ramdev launched “Coronil”, falsely claiming WHO had certified the Patanjali medicine. Thanks to the political patronage he enjoyed, no action was taken. Ramdev openly boasted nobody could do anything to him, since his political connections went all the way to the top. False and dangerous health claims through huge advertising campaigns saw Patanjali’s rise to a globally recognised brand, while victims who rushed to hospitals after consuming Patanjali products had no recourse. The SC sharply rapped Ramdev on the knuckles: “You are not so innocent…’’ No, he most certainly isn’t innocent. His so-called “herbal cures” may have done immeasurable harm to thousands of consumers. What of that??? A mere apology is nothing but a strategy to buy time. A thorough investigation into the innards of the secretive Patanjali empire is long overdue.

Thanda thanda paani is on everyone’s mind as the mercury soars and Dubai drowns (“Doob-ai’’). Rain seeding and other attempts to manipulate climate are going to cost the entire world big time, not just one destination. Everything “environment’’ is a matter of concern, but we only wake up when disaster strikes. A brief stopover in the capital is necessary to get a feel of the “vaaaaa-taaa-varan” (thanks, Lisa Haydon, for making that delicious word so popular). The garam hawa in Dilli never really cools down -- not even during winter. I can people watch for hours, sitting in the busy lobby of the Taj Mansingh, as assorted VVIPs jump in and out of SUVs and head to the House of Ming. If only the walls of this iconic Chinese restaurant could speak! I noticed so many attractive, gorgeously dressed, perfectly groomed young ladies floating around, dropping names of Cabinet members, networking furiously! But they don’t call themselves “lobbyists” -- that’s too déclassé, too obvious. Their lewk is strictly Dolce Dilli Gabana, even if the accent is distinctly Haryanvi. So long as the work gets done, honey!

Earlier in the week, while in Nepal, I came across an impassioned pro-monarchy street protester at Durbar Square, the famous Unesco site. He was holding up a large poster written in Hindi, advocating the return of the King. Well, as of now, Gyanendra, the last King from the Shah dynasty, is a businessman and private citizen after royal rule ended in 2008 after more than two centuries. Looks like some Nepali citizens want him back on the throne. Maybe, India likes the idea, too.

The protester was supported by a small team, and did manage to attract the curious -- inquisitive folks like me! I asked him about his mission, and he replied: “Nepal is the only Hindu country in the world. We want a Hindu King. We want to become a fully Hindu nation. No Communists, Maoists… we want to be like India! We want Nepal to become stronger, more prosperous. Our King must be reinstated… this is what the people want.’’ I dismissed him as a young, over-enthusiastic, attention-seeking monarchist. The bloody palace massacre had effectively put an end to any such dream back in 2001 when 15 members of the royal family, including King Birendra, his wife and two children were shot dead. To this day, it remains a whodunit with theories galore. Reportedly, a drunk, lovesick Nepali prince (fondly nicknamed “Dippy”), disappointed by his father’s rejection of his girlfriend, opened fire on his family and then turned the gun on himself.

A day after I met the protester in Kathmandu, I was on the way back from Bhaktapur, when I noticed hundreds of riot police lining the square of the historic site, batons and shields in place. By the time we got back to our hotel in Lalitpur, there was full-scale rioting in the streets, with cops using water hoses and teargas to control hundreds of stone- throwing protesters blocking traffic. Life in the busy capital was disrupted as slogan-shouting pro-monarchy rioters escalated the confrontation, chanting slogans and boldly taking on the police.

India’s Hindu influence is sure gathering momentum in the neighbourhood! The Nepali King may or may not occupy the throne for the third time in the old, ramshackle palace. But the increasing India presence is making the pro-Chinese political parties across the border pretty jittery. If the Nepalis have to deal with not just one Big Brother, but two, let’s be genuinely brotherly, score a few brownie points and restore the shabby palace, maybe build a new airport! The Chinese are taking care of the rest.

Tags: baba ramdev, nepal india ties, patanjali ayurved