November 24, 2011

Ramdev’s Raring Rallies

Is Baba Ramdev’s campaign in India’s hinterland – based on a lesser State and greater self-help, striking a chord with Bharat?


A nervous Government's 'crackdown' on Baba Ramdev was revealing.  |  Cartoon by Satish Acharya; source and courtesy - srai.org  |   Click for source image.

A nervous Government's 'crackdown' on Baba Ramdev was revealing. | Cartoon by Satish Acharya; source and courtesy - srai.org | Click for source image.

Despite the lack of media coverage, Ramdev’s rallies in towns and villages are getting a raring response. In the last few months, Ramdev visited hundreds of towns and villages, addressing millions of people in these gatherings.

In these Yoga shivirs, he urges people to take their health into their own hands by practicing योग and प्राणायाम. He then extends the argument of self healing and health, to the nation, urging the people to make India healthy by bringing political reform and taking more personal responsibility.

While, his primary campaign is to repatriate Indian wealth stored in foreign countries, there are several other themes to his prescriptions to a healthy India. Other than the provocative statements that are often taken out of context, the media rarely covers Ramdev’s ideas on “व्यवस्था परिवर्तन” or restructuring polity.

As the government went into contortions, is Baba's campaign in India's hinterlands gathering steam?   |   Cartoon by Shyam Jagota; source and courtesy - sunilscove.files.wordpress.com   |   Click for source image.

As the government went into contortions, is Baba's campaign in India's hinterlands gathering steam? | Cartoon by Shyam Jagota; source and courtesy - sunilscove.files.wordpress.com | Click for source image.

Ramdev’s Prescriptions for an Ailing India

Ramdev’s speeches are loaded with data, economic indicators and prescriptions for a new India (for example this speech). He speaks of the triad of freedom, echoing the ideas presented by the leaders of 1857 as the Triad of Freedom. He understands that a sound economic policy can strengthen India’s geopolitical position vis-a-vis the western countries (as in this speech). Some of his important prescriptions, from his various addresses, are summarized below:

  • Remove the monopoly of the English language. Let Indian languages be allowed for all higher and technical education.
  • Reform monetary policy. Ramdev wants the RBI to stop promoting and indirectly propping up the dollar and he wants the government from creating policies that encourages Indian savings to flee to tax havens.
  • Restructure tax policy. He wants to radically reduce the tax burden on the population. Eliminate income, excise and energy taxes. Streamline other taxation.

During one such rally, Ramdev, rhetorically asked the audience what did India do wrong in the 1950s? His answer – two large books – that were India’s first and second five year plans. Ramdev is not a fan of central planning of India’s economy. Ramdev’s prescriptions are about reducing governance, which is the foundation of Indic polity. The emphasis is more freedom less governance.

While the Indian State is promoting increasing dependence; Baba Ramdev is pushing the envelope on self-help   |   Cartoon by Monica Gupta; source and courtesy - monicagupta.info  |   Click for source image.

While the Indian State is promoting increasing dependence; Baba Ramdev is pushing the envelope on self-help | Cartoon by Monica Gupta; source and courtesy - monicagupta.info | Click for source image.

More Personal Responsibility

For example, Ramdev urges people to follow healthy lifestyles that includes giving up addictive substances. A child from the audience, asked him the following:

“बीडी सिगरेट गन्दी चीज है तो बिकती क्युं है?” (“if beedi and cigarettes are bad things, then why are they allowed to be sold?”)

One might think that someone who opposes these addictive substances, would answer by saying that the government should “control” these substances, perhaps even ban them. However, Ramdev’s answer was consistent with his message. He answered:

“बाजार में जहर भी बिकता है । कोई चीज़ बिकती है तो वह बेचते हैं । हमे क्या करना है? हमे इस गंदी चीजोंसे दूर रहना है ।”
“We also get poison in the market. When there are people who want to buy there will be people who will sell it. But what should we do? we stay away from all these poisons?” (watch video here).

Or, in this speech for example, Ramdev says:

“Government थोडी ना अपनी बीमारी ठीक करके देगी” (“Don’t expect the government to take care of your health.”)

More freedom and less governance means that people must take more personal responsibility for themselves. Expecting too much from the government automatically enlarges the size of the government. More controls, more mechanisms to check nepotism, corruption and regulation. In short – a pyramidal polity that expands like a ponzi scheme, and thus leading to the question of “Who will guard the guards?”

For someone who views the west with skepticism, and even mocks western choices in hygiene, Ramdev’s prescriptions are largely rooted in reality of Indic wisdom.

Perhaps the media whose obsession with Western economists and jargon throwing “intellectuals” fail to understand the power in Ramdev’s messages.

Or perhaps they understand it all too well!

No comments: