India’s doctors on Saturday asked the Centre to prosecute yoga televangelist Ramdev, expressing anger at what they view as the Indian government’s “silence” after his derogatory and vitriolic claim that modern medicine is killing patients.
The doctors have decried Ramdev’s allegation and asked Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, himself a modern surgeon, whether he would remain a “mute spectator” to the claims made by the yoga evangelist and promoter of Patanjali products.
Ramdev, in a video circulating on social media over the past two days, is seen disparaging allopathy or modern medicine.
Allopathy is a stupid science…. I’m saying an important thing. It’s possible some may oppose this,” the video shows him saying. “But lakhs of people have died after taking allopathic medicines… more people have died from allopathic medicines than from the shortage of hospital beds or lack of oxygen.”
Ramdev also claims that medicines such as remdesivir and Fabiflu, approved by the Drugs Controller General of India, have failed to treat Covid-19 patients.
The Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust issued a statement on Saturday evening saying Ramdev was merely “reading out a forwarded WhatsApp message” in the video.
The Indian Medical Association, the country’s largest body of doctors, has asked the government to prosecute Ramdev for his “false and baseless” claims that, the IMA says, appear intended to mislead the public and boost sales of his company’s products.
“We are shocked at the silence of the government,” Jayesh Lele, the IMA secretary-general, told The Telegraph over the phone. “It’s more than two days since the video surfaced. Why has the health ministry not spoken up; why hasn’t the Niti Aayog (the government’s apex think tank) spoken up?”
The IMA, in a statement on Saturday, accused Ramdev of trying to take advantage of the coronavirus epidemic and “create a sense of fear and frustration within the public” so that his company can sell its “illegal and unapproved so-called medicines”.
The association said about Harsh Vardhan: “If he remains a mute spectator to this, who’s going to bell the cat?”
Both the IMA and the Federation of All India Medical Associations (FAIMA), an umbrella organisation of resident doctors across the country, have sent “legal notices” to Ramdev demanding an apology and public retraction of his claims.
The IMA has demanded that Ramdev be prosecuted under the Epidemic Diseases Act as “untutored” statements are “a threat to the literate society of the country as well as to the poor people falling prey to him”.
“The Union health minister, who himself is a practising modern medicine allopathic postgraduate and head of this (health) ministry, should either accept the challenge and accusation of this gentleman and dissolve the modern medical facility or boldly face and prosecute the person for his words of arson on the sovereignty of the country and book him under the Epidemic Act to save millions of people from such unscientific utterances,” the IMA said.
The association said that if the minister did not act, it would be forced to resort to “democratic means of struggle to propagate the truth to the common man”.
The resident doctors’ associations of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Safdarjung Hospital, too, condemned Ramdev’s comments and demanded that “strictest steps” be taken against him.
“His claims are false, unscrupulous, possibly to get people to buy Patanjali products,” said Suvrankar Datta, a resident doctor and FAIMA’s general secretary. “We’re concerned because he has a following among people.”
The Haridwar-based Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust on Saturday said Ramdev had “utmost regards” for doctors and support staff who have been working day and night during the pandemic.
Ramdev was “reading out a forwarded WhatsApp message received by him and various other members who were participating in the event”, it added.
“What is being attributed against him is false and nugatory,” the statement signed by Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust general secretary Acharya Balakrishna said. It did not say why the trust had waited till now to issue the denial.
Earlier this month, Ramdev had been roasted on social media for appearing to make fun of those suffering because of the shortage of medical oxygen, suggesting while laughing that the atmosphere was full of oxygen and displaying deep-breathing techniques.
Many doctors, including some IMA and FAIMA office-bearers, believe Ramdev has enjoyed government support and cite instances where the Centre has appeared lenient during his attempts to promote Patanjali’s health products through misleading claims.
Earlier this year, the IMA had accused Harsh Vardhan of breaching ethics by joining an event by Ramdev, where he described a herbal cocktail developed by Patanjali as the “first evidence-based medicine for Covid-19”, and of appearing to promote the product.