The Curious Case Of Patanjali’s Cure-All Claims

| Updated: March 6, 2023 7:49 pm

That lotus position he holds before the camera has viewers transfixed. And then that hypnotic stare commanding our attention. He wants us to focus on every syllable that proceeds out of his lips. It’s as if he’s turning on his charm and challenging us to subdue his persuasive powers.

It’s hard to ascribe a definition to Baba Ramdev. He’s an Indian yoga guru, a committed disparager of allopathy, and a marketing wizard of Patanjali. The last moniker has stuck. 

The Morning Context, in a well-researched and exhaustive article, has highlighted a series of erroneous claims from this purported ayurveda expert. 

According to the report, Baba Ramdev claimed that an eye condition called glaucoma was completely treatable through ayurveda. He cited a case study of a BJP leader who didn’t need glasses anymore, thanks to the treatment he recommended. A fact check proved otherwise. 

The report referred to a series of such tall claims by Baba Ramdev in the backdrop of Patanjali labels. He would announce that he had remedies for even macular degeneration, psoriasis, blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, heart diseases, arthritis, epilepsy, cataract and hernia. Even cure for people on the brink of death.

Advertising drugs claiming to cure chronic conditions is illegal under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954. The act lists 54 diseases for which advertising drugs is considered illegal. As per the National Medical Commission Act, 2019, quackery could lead to one-year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh. Ramdev and Patanjali, the firm he brazenly endorses, have been asked to drop the advertisements, but the law has been lenient to them.

Ravindra Joshi, a former assistant commissioner at the Food and Drugs Administration, Maharashtra, was quoted as saying that since most of these violations are borderline, the verdict could go either way.

Baba Ramdev has also found a way around the law. He recommends yoga, the right diet, and Patanjali medicines to cure the diseases above. It’s a formula to play it safe, and blame patients for not doing yoga appropriately in case things go wrong. It may be noted that while Baba Ramdev is the face of Patanjali, he doesn’t have a stake in it. 

Former president of the Indian Medical Association, Rajan Sharma, is critical of the way Baba Ramdev is advertising “overtly” and “covertly”.

“Yoga is good for health,” the article quotes Rajan Sharma, former president of the Indian Medical Association. “But prescribing ayurvedic medicines is very different. He’s advertising overtly and covertly. And they’ve got full government support.”

Baba Ramdev hasn’t taken a step back despite the Supreme Court asking him to stop ridiculing modern medicines. The Morning Context highlighted that Nepal’s drug regulator even blacklisted Patanjali’s Divya Pharmacy after it failed to comply with the World Health Organisation’s drug manufacturing standards. An RTI response revealed that amla juice and Shivlingi Beej, all Patanjali products, failed the quality tests. In her book, Godman to Tycoon: The Untold Story of Baba Ramdev, Priyanka Pathak Narain said that Patanjali sold adulterated cow ghee. 

And yet nothing seems to faze him.

The moot question, raised in the report, is whether Ramdev’s prescriptions have harmed anybody. Four years ago, the Ayush ministry investigated drug reactions of all Ayush remedies. The Morning Context says there’s no evidence of adverse effects of Patanjali products. In addition, some people have testified to his products.

For now, Patanjali has successfully evaded questions on quality control. 

Baba Ramdev has built a brand around his concepts. He’s unlikely to back down. Many years ago, during a TV show, he was asked if he dyed his night-dark hair. “Completely natural,” he purred, leaning forward to show his dense hair mass.

The allegations won’t die down. The campaign against him will only heat up in future. But Baba Ramdev is not the one to stop.

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