Yoga Guru and Patanjali founder Baba Ramdev is not a big believer in evidence-based medicine. He has proved that time and again.
In his latest move, Ramdev has irked the Indian Medical Association (IMA). The tussle that involved legal notice, intervention by the Health Minister and even a 'Black Day' for protest started with a video where Ramdev was seen saying that 'allopathy is stupid and failed science' and 'lakhs of patients have died after taking allopathic medicines'. The yoga guru also questioned the legitimacy of Covid19 vaccines.
Ramdev's tirade against modern medicine and move to propagate Ayurvedic medicine and yoga as cures for COVID-19 as well as other diseases is not new. However, since the beginning of the pandemic, his statements on Covid19 have been mired in controversy, and none of them proved. From claiming that Patanjali has found a cure for COVID-19 that he later retracted to his attack against modern medicine for which even the Indian Health Minister had to intervene-- Ramdev has been controversy's favourite child.
Ramdev uses his own social media channels, Patanjali press conferences, his innumerable appearances on Hindi news channels, and his regular shows on Hindi religious channels to drive his point that reaches millions of people. However, the pandemic is not the only that time Ramdev has attracted the ire of medical practitioners.
Ramdev's Belief 1: Allopathy Is Stupid
Ramdev's statements at a Patanjali meet led to an online and offline furore, finally forcing the Indian Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan to write to him asking him to withdraw his statements. On May 23, Ramdev in a video blamed allopathic medicines for the death of several people who were infected with COVID-19.
In a two-minute-long video viral on social media, Ramdev talks about the constantly changing role of allopathic medicines in tackling COVID-19. In the video, Ramdev is accompanied by Patanjali's CEO Acharya Balkrishna and two other figures. While the other three are masked, an unmasked Ramdev reads from his phone. He suggested that the ever-changing nature of research on medicines for COVID-19 suggests that they are "only trying to create a commotion".
"I am discussing something very huge," Ramdev said. "Lakhs of people have died due to consuming allopathic medicine. The number of people who have died if they did not go to hospitals, did not get enough oxygen is lesser when compared to the deaths that have occurred of people who were on oxygen and died because of allopathic medicines."
Doctors protested against his statements and called them wayward. The Indian Medical Association was the most vocal of the organisations against his statements.
The health minister wrote a strongly worded letter reprimanding the yoga guru and asking him to apologise for the words he used. Ramdev issued a clarification with a letter that read, "Hon'ble Minister, I have received your letter. I withdraw my statement, putting to rest the controversy over various medical practices." Although he agreed to withdraw his statement, he advocated that the role of AYUSH and specifically Ayurveda practitioners in fighting COVID-19 should be acknowledged.
Ramdev also attributed his controversial statements to a WhatsApp message. However, the video shows that after 10-15 seconds, Ramdev is not reading from his phone.
It didn't end there. A day after he said he was withdrawing his statement, Ramdev tweeted a list of COVID and non-COVID disease related questions for the IMA to answer which suggested that allopathic medicine had still not found answers to age-old questions surrounding several diseases. The Indian Medical Association's Uttarakhand chapter issued a ₹1,000 crore defamation suit against Ramdev while Delhi Medical Association filed a police complaint. The Delhi High Court has issued a notice to Ramdev.
Ramdev's Belief 2: He Is Immune To Covid
While the tussle with IMA was on, Ramdev made news once again after claiming that he hasn't received the Covid-19 vaccination as he enjoyed the dual cover of yoga and Ayurveda. He believes that he is immune to the virus and does not need to be vaccinated. "For decades, I have been practising yoga and Ayurveda, so I didn't feel the need to get vaccinated. Over 100 crore people of India as well as in foreign countries have access to these ancient therapies. In the times to come, Ayurveda will be globally accepted," Ramdev said.
Earlier, in one of his early morning yoga shows aired on Aastha channel, Ramdev is heard saying that even after receiving the vaccine, over 1200 doctors died due to COVID-19.
This claim by Ramdev is false. According to the IMA, before vaccination was started in India on January 16, 2021, close to 767 doctors had lost their lives. In the second wave witnessed from March, over 500 doctors have lost their lives.
BOOM spoke to Dr. Jayesh Lele, general secretary of the IMA, who told us that the IMA is yet to collate data on whether the doctors who lost their lives were fully or partially vaccinated.
Ramdev's Belief 3: Enough Oxygen In Air
In early May 2021 when the second wave hit India-- with three lakh new cases and three thousand deaths daily, social media and WhatsApp were filled with SOS calls for oxygen. The reports of people dying due to the lack of oxygen kept coming in. In the middle of this crisis, Ramdev released another video saying that there was enough oxygen in the air for people to take in. The video went viral.
Pointing towards his nose, Ramdev calls them "two cylinders" and calls his legs "two doctors". In a similar fashion, pointing towards his arms, he calls them "two nurses", essentially asking people to utilise their bodies to generate oxygen.
Several social media users felt that Ramdev was mocking the plight of people seeking help. And, it left many feeling 'ashamed'.
Ramdev's Belief 4: Coronil Can Cure Coronavirus
In August 2020, Ramdev claimed that Patanjali had created an "evidence-based cure" called Coronil constituting four Ayurvedic products for COVID-19. After the Ministry of AYUSH asked him to stop the advertisement of Coronil as a cure, Ramdev retracted the claim and called it an immunity-boosting mechanism.
Following a backlash, Ramdev conducted a press conference stating that he never called it a cure, but only called it a control. This is false as there is video evidence wherein Ramdev is seen calling Coronil as a cure.
The medicine which was officially launched by Dr. Harsh Vardhan and Nitin Gadkari in February 2021 found itself seeped in another controversy after several yoga gurus with the Ayurvedic FMCG tweeted that Coronil was approved as the "First Evidence Based Medicine" by the WHO.
In reality, they had only received a WHO-affiliated Good Manufacturing Practices which was issued by the Indian drug manufacturer.
Ramdev's Belief 5 & 6: Breathing Is A Test For Covid-19 And Mustard Oil For Avoiding COVID
In the preliminary months of the pandemic, before Patanjali started researching for medicines, Ramdev claimed that if people could do breathing exercises, it could be a self-test for COVID-19. During a show he was presenting with Aaj Tak, Ramdev promoted the use of mustard oil claiming it to be a deterrent to the spread of COVID-19.
BOOM found that both of his claims lacked scientific evidence.
The pandemic is a dangerous time to spread misinformation. But not the only time. Over the years, Ramdev has been pushing for Ayurvedic medicines by passing snide remarks at allopathy. In 2017, Ramdev claimed that cancer is karma and is due to people's sins. In 2012 he stated that he could cure cancer. He has also claimed to have found cures for diseases and lifestyle disorders such as dengue, chikungunya, swine flu, cataract and high blood pressure.