Some of the 115 dismissed workers of Divya Pharmacy. They have been on dharna for more than half a year.
The Brinda Karat-Baba Ramdev affair that exploded into the media in January 2006 has thus far been so badly reported that a few salient points need to be highlighted:
1. The various Babas and Mahants of Hardwar were largely against the formation of Uttaranchal state, particularly as these religious personalities owned enormous tracts of land in the district, and feared a new state government’s push to impose a land ceiling. They also own properties throughout the state that go largely unregulated and tax free due to their religious status, no matter how commercial their usage (e.g., hotels masquerading as ashrams).
2. The Swami (BJP) and Tiwari (Congress) governments have all bent over backwards to accommodate these powerful interests, running their own candidates for temple trust boards, while actively seeking campaign funds and political blessings. As such, their holdings have been barely touched, while next door in Udham Singh Nagar, relations between largely Sikh farmers and the state government have been more tense.
3. The anti-ayurvedic and anti-national accusations invoked by Baba Ramdev’s defenders are spurious. While indisputably, the UPA government’s tilt as been pro-American and pro-neoliberalism given that Manmohan Singh is PM, the NDA government’s record in this regard prostituted equally to US and international capital. Both are neoliberal and neither as democratic or progressive as they ostensibly claim.
4. You can call the Communist Party any number of things, but pro-imperialist is not one of them. They have been at the forefront of defending India’s sovereignty and workers in the globalization era.
In the Brinda Karat vs. Baba Ramdev case, various issues are at play:
- the mistreatment of workers who blew the whistle on this practice.
- adulteration and contamination of medicines which have been proven by labs.
- and the enormous power of these television personalities to avoid legal or societal sanction.
However, the media has personalized the dispute and made it a religious issue, rather than taken the claims at face values. The workers (mostly Uttarakhandi women) have all but been ignored.
That Brinda Karat took on a powerful figure for virtually no personal gain, is quite telling. That Mulayam Singh Yadav, Laloo Yadav, ND Tiwari, and the rest have strongly sided with Ramdev is also quite telling.
Various articles that have emerged obfuscate the true nature of the dispute and also go further in spinning any criticism of Ramdev’s business ventures as part of some “international conspiracy” against locally produced ayurveda. This ill serves a population that is increasingly coming under the mercy of these companies who brazenly ignore labour and food laws, even while they enjoy tax-free status at the expense of Uttaranchal state.