NEW DELHI: Over 150 scholars, academicians, artists, health practitioners and social activists on Wednesday came out in support of Rajya Sabha member Brinda Karat in her ongoing war of words with yoga guru Ramdev over labour rights and presence of human remains in Ayurvedic preparations made by his Divya Yog Pharmacy (Haridwar).
Expressing serious concern over the "wild allegations and hate campaign being mounted" by Baba Ramdev against Ms. Karat, the signatories to the statement noted that his ire and that of "obscurantist forces that have rallied around him" has been directed against her for raising the issue of the pharmacy violating both labour laws and legal provisions regarding labelling and licensing of drugs.
In an appeal, the signatories said the modus operandi adopted by Baba Ramdev’s supporters has been "a high-pitched and personalised attack targeting Ms. Karat; an attack that has been fostered and encouraged by a sensationalising media." They have urged all concerned to refrain from further sensationalisation of the matter and instead "assert the need to uphold the right to critical and rational debate."
Of the view that the first issue pertained to the legitimate rights, grievances and collective struggle of pharmacy workers against their management, they noted: "This issue has been suppressed and made somewhat invisible by converting the conflict between the interests of the workers and owners of the Divya Yog Pharmacy into one of a clash between two individuals."
The second issue, according to the signatories, pertained to standards and accountability in all forms and branches of medicine. "In the name of defending `traditional’ forms of medicine, Shri Ramdev, his supporters and allies seem to be propagating the untenable view that those who have taken the title of Swami, Baba or similar traditional spiritual titles are above question or accountability to society."
The signatories are also critical of the media for portraying the entire issue as primarily a battle between two individuals. Also, according to them, the media has "contributed to obfuscating the real social concerns involved in the controversy, thereby scuttling the possibility of a serious debate on the issues raised" including violation of regulatory laws pertaining to public health and medical ethics, subversion of the rights of workers, and need for public accountability and enquiry into the commercial practices of institutions that claim spiritual authority.
Among those who have put their signatures to the statement are Jean Dreze, Armaity Desai, Prabhat Patnaik, C.P. Chandrasekhar, Githa Hariharan, Uma Chakravarty, Tanika Sarkar, Zoya Hassan, Utsa Patnaik, Molayashri Hashmi, Subhashini Ali, Indira Jaising and Sohail Hashmi.