Tag Archives: Baba Ramdev

Ramdev vs Govt – Who will blink first

For the last one week, the country has witnessed swiftly unfolding high voltage drama ever since Ramdev reached Delhi onJune 2 . The state reception he got at the airport, the 5 hour hush-hush negotiations in Claridges Hotel, Kapil Sibbal displaying hand written note of Ramdev’s close aide Balkrishna, police crackdown on 20,000 protesters at Ramlila Ground, Ramdev being expelled to Haridwar, Ramdev’s allegation of Govt’s conspiracy to kill him, Govt’s allegation of RSS hand behind Ramdev, Sonia Gandhi’s displeasure over Govt’s inapt handling of Ramdev, Anna Hazare’s group boycotting joint drafting committee, Sushma Swaraj’s dance at Rajghat, Ramdev continuing his fast and reports of his deteriorating health, Anna Hazare’s group’s day long protest at Rajghat, Ramdev’s announcement to raise an army of 11,000 youth, Home Minister threatening to take action if he does so, Shoe thrower at Congress HQ, Loose cannon Digvijay Singh firing salvos at regular intervals, confused media and eventually confused public. One would never have imagined that in a country where nothing moves for years, so much can happen in a week.

The standoff between the Govt and Ramdev not only continues but is getting worse by every passing day. While the Govt seems to have presumed Ramdev to be a closed chapter and is only trying to address its vote banks in view of coming UP elections, Ramdev has refused to bite the bullet. He is continuing his fast which enters its 5th day today. He is still attracting a considerable media attention which must be a cause of worry to the Govt. What must be worrying Ramdev is that how long should he continue his fast? In spite of the rhetoric, it is unlikely that he would have imagined being in a situation like this when he started his fast. With the Govt paying no heed, the big problem for him is how to get an honorable exit. It’s a perfect Catch 22 situation – he can’t continue and he can’t end his fast. He will have to play a big gamble and continue his fast. The only hope is that if he continues the fast and his condition deteriorates to a near death situation, it will make the Govt sit up and take notice. Such a situation will also fuel public anger and the Govt will come under immense pressure to act. It will of course require the bigwigs in the Congress Party and the Govt to shun their ego and reopen talks with Ramdev. Both parties would be “once bitten twice shy” and would be more interested in an honorable exit rather that real agreement on Ramdev’s demands. As soon as the Govt restarts talking with Ramdev, the impasse would end.

The scenario sounds good but easier said than done. Firstly, how long would the fast continue or rather in how many days Ramdev’s heath would deteriorate to alarming level? Let’s look back in the history – Mahatma Gandhi fasted a total of 17 times throughout his career. Most of his fasts lasted only a few days, though the two longest (in 1924 and 1943) went on for three weeks each. Mamta Banerjee fasted for 25 days during her protest on Singur. However, the most horrible case of fasting in the history of independent India is that of Manipur rights activist Irom Sharmila who is into 11th year of her hunger strike. Her fast has lasted so long because the police has been force feeding her through nasal drop on regular basis. Ramdev is lucky that he is finally back to Uttarakhand where the BJP’s Govt is supportive of him and he doesn’t have to fear forced feeding by police.

However, the most unbelievable example of going without food is that of Prahlad Jani from Rajasthan who claims to claims to have had no food or drink for 70 years. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/7645857/Man-claims-to-have-had-no-food-or-drink-for-70-years.html) The big difference is that he has left food voluntarily and not for protest.

Both Mahata Gandhi and Mamta Banerjee are no match to Baba Ramdev’s physical fitness. With his Yoga Power, it is expected that he should be able to sustain his hunger strike much longer that Gandhi and Mamta. However, it was a bit surprising to see reports of deterioration in his condition within 4-5 days. It was claimed that he has lost 4-5 Kg weight. The possibility of such rapid worsening of his health is highly unlikely. What is possible is that this could be a tactical move to catch Govt’s attention and public sympathy. The Govt would certainly consult medical experts who would provide the necessary comfort that it is too early to be alarmed. The bad news for Ramdev is that having missed the opportunity on June 4, now there are no short cuts. He will have to carry on for at least a month to expect any softening of Govt’s stand. From Govt’s point of view also, this will not be a very comfortable situation as Ramdev will continue to hog the national headlines for these many days which will not be very helpful for the coming elections in UP.

For the time being the standoff is very much on – let’s see who blinks first!!

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Latest Update – Indian Express (June 12 2011, 10:53 hrs ) – “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ‘persuades’ Ramdev to break nine day fast ”  ( http://www.indianexpress.com/news/sri-sri-ravi-shankar-persuades-ramdev-to-break-nine-day-fast/802506/)

Police crackdown on Ramdev’s Protest

What was being feared has finally happened. After the breakdown of talks between Ramdev and the Govt, a 5000 strong police force was sent to the historic Ramlila ground to  end the peaceful protest by brute force. First, the Govt cancelled the permission granted to Ramdev to use Ramlila Maidan on flimsy security grounds and then swiftly moved in police force to forcibly evict Ramdev and his 20,000 odd supporters when they were sleeping.

The entire police action was telecast live on all news channels and those who were awake like me watched with shock and disbelief the terrible images of peaceful protesters including women and elderly being brutally dragged out and beaten. This was indeed yet another Black Day in the history of Independent India.

Brutal police action on peaceful protestors was a cruel reminder of the British Raj and Emergency days. It was in this very Ramlila Ground on the 25th June 1975 when Jai Prakash Narain along with all prominent opposition leaders addressed a mammoth rally which prompted Indira Gandhi to impose Emergency on the same day at midnight and arrest JP and all other opposition leaders.

Much in the same way as JP’s rally, 36 years after that ill fated day, in the same month of June, Ramlila ground was once again packed to capacity sending shivers down Government’s spine and much in the same way the Government panicked and resorted to use of brute force to curb a totally peaceful protest. What’s the difference between a democratic India and other Banana Republics. How can the Government justify terming a peaceful protest as a threat to security and use that as an excuse to crackdown on peaceful protesters. Has Manmohan Singh stooped to the level of Mohammad Gaddafi to see a security threat in a peaceful protest?

The reaction of the English media, as usual has been pathetic. While condemning the police action for the sake of it, they don’t seem to have much problem with what has happened. But we shouldn’t forget, there were some people who didn’t have much problem even with Emergency. Vinoba Bhave had termed Emergency as an “Anushasan Parva” (Festival of Discipline). Khushwant Singh, who represented the elite English media at that time, was also a big supporter of the Emergency.

In a matter of just two days, the UPA Government has swiveled from one extreme of sending four senior ministers to the airport to receive the Baba, to another of arresting him at midnight. It is hard to believe that a Government headed by sensible and seasoned politicians like Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram can be so foolhardy. There is definitely more to it than what meets the eye. My take is that the Government was just blindly following the directives coming from 10 Janpath and its coterie. With an eye on the approaching polls in UP and the desperate need to establish Rahul Gandhi’s credentials, 10 Janpath directed the UPA Govt to stop Ramdev’s protest AT ANY COST. So severe was the directive that the Govt panicked from day one and sent four senior ministers including the so called No. 2, Pranab Mukherjee to the airport to engage with Ramdev with the idea of nipping the protest in bud. Later when the media termed this move to the Govt falling on the feet on Ramdev, 10 Janpath cracked its whip again and even such a senior and respected person like Pranab Mukherjee had to literally apologize and accept the blame. Irritated by this faux pas, 10 Janpath asked the Govt to do everything to not just thwart Ramdev’s protest but also appear to be strong and firm. Now also confirmed by Subramanian Swamy through Tweeter –  “@Swamy39: Sonia gave a direct order to PC to show this “half naked mendicant” what she is. This was at 10.20 pm yesterday. Coup d Etat!! “.

Another angle was the murmuring in the Anna Hazare camp against Government’s non-cooperation and the possibility of a protest by them as well. It is worth mentioning that the next meeting of the Lok Pal Drafting Committee is scheduled for tomorrow i.e. 6th June 2011 when Anna Hazare camp is expected to take a final call on walking out from the committee and taking to the streets again. Last night police action on Ramdev is also aimed at sending a strong signal to Anna Hazare camp that the Govt is in no mood to allow the so called civil society to embarrass it.

However, like her Mother-in-Law, Sonia Gandhi seems to be getting all the wrong advice on critical matters like this. India has seen so many oppressive rulers that the public and its leaders cannot be intimidated by police action like what we saw last night. Baba Ramdev is a wounded tiger now and as soon as he is released by the Police, he will strike back with full force. The Govt should be under no illusion about his popularity and its own unpopularity. Evicting Ramdev out of Delhi does not kill the protest, especially in today’s era.  He will most likely resume his protest at Hardwar where the Delhi Police is expected to release him by today afternoon. If my reading is right, he is still on fast. His followers in Delhi are not too far away as Haridwar is just 4-5 hours drive from Delhi. With BJP Govt in Uttarakhand, there is no police threat to Baba Ramdev in Haridwar. Thanks to the live telecast technology and tens of news channels hungry for sensational news, we will soon see Ramdev being beamed into every household of India. From the point of view of the UPA Government, it would not make any difference whether Ramdev is fasting at Ramlila ground in Delhi or his own Ashram in Haridwar. If anything, it will make it that much more difficult for the Govt to deal with him firstly due to the bitterness generated by the police action and secondly due to the 180 Km distance between Delhi and Haridwar.

Borrowing the famous dialogue – “Picture abhi bakhi hai mere dost..” (“The movie is not yet over, my friend….”)

Baba Ramdev’s Crusade against Black Money

Reactions to his announcement of Indefinite Fast from June 4

Baba Ramdev’s announcement of indefinite fast from June 4 on the issue of Black Money has invoked mixed reactions amongst the cross-section of Indian society.

The UPA Government at the centre appears to be extremely nervous and has announced a series of measures followed by a personal appeal by the Prime Minister himself to Ramdev to call off his fast.

Timing of Ramdev’s fast is being viewed with skepticism by many as it comes within one month of Anna Hazare’s fast on the issue of Jan Lok Pal Bill. While Ramdev had personally joined Anna Hazare on the dais during his fast and offered his full support, the so called Anna Group doesn’t seem too pleased with Ramdev’s announcement of fast as they see this as a diversion to their efforts in finalizing the draft of the Lok Pal Bill. Interestingly, ahead of Ramdev’s fast, sharp differences between the Anna Group and Government representatives have come to surface during the recent meeting of the committee of drafting Lok Pal Bill on whether PM and the Higher Judiciary be brought under the ambit of the Lok Pal. Some of the Anna Group members have even threatened to walk out of the committee if the impasse continues. Ramdev has further fuelled the controversy by supporting government’s position by saying that the PM and Higher Judiciary should not be brought under Lok Pal. However, at the same time he also said that he did not want to go into the controversial issue and involve himself in a public debate on that. The media reported Ramdev’s statement in a big way and termed it as a “divide in the civil society”. Prior to this controversy, Anna Hazare had offered his full support to Ramdev. However, after Ramdev’s comments on Lok Pal, Arvind Kejriwal, one of the members of the joint committee on drafting the Lokpal Bill, said they would try to convince him about inclusion of the Prime Minister in the Lokpal ambit. On the other hand, Kiran Bedi, in an interview to NDTV, termed it as “Minority View” within the civil society.

The so called elite section of the society has not backed Ramdev and in fact many have been extremely critical to the extent of being contemptuous. NDTV has termed Ramdev’s announcement “Competitive Fasting” (with reference to Anna’s fast). Javed Akhtar in his tweet immediately after Ramdev’s announcement said – “Remember my words. Baba Ramdev is making a major mistake. He will ultimately have to end his hunger strike by eating a humble pie.” Satish Jacob, BBC correspondent in India, said on NDTV “While I have huge respect for Anna Hazare, I can not say the same thing about the Saffron Clad Baba (Ramdev)”. Tavleen Singh, famous columnist said on Twitter – “Why does our government succumb so easily to these alleged crusaders and their mad ideas?”

While the Congress Party has maintained total silence on Ramdev’s fast, the principal opposition party BJP has thrown its full weight behind him. BJP’s spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said – “We fully support Baba Ramdev’s crusade and we have great respect for him.” It is anticipated that Ramdev will get whole hearted support from the RSS and its allied organization as they consider the issue of Black Money very close to their heart. Other opposition parties have however so far refrained from commenting. It would be particularly interesting to have the reaction of Brinda Karat of CPM who had earlier accused Ramdev of mixing human bones with his herbal medicine, a charge vehemently denied by Ramdev. Brinda’s comment had revoked sharp reactions from the supporters of Ramdev and the CPM had then decided not to lock horns with Ramdev any further.

The Real Issue

There have been wide-ranging estimates of the amount of Indian black money stashed abroad from $500 billion to $1.4 trillion. The most recent Global Financial Integrity study (2006) shows that the average amount stashed away from India annually during 2002-06 is $27.3 billion which amounts to $136.5 billion during the five-year period.

The campaign against Black Money has been gathering momentum in recent years. Earlier this year, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s announcement that he will soon come out with a list of 2000 Swiss Account Holders, many of whom are Indians, had set the cat amongst the pigeons.

In April 2009, former Union law minister Ram Jethmalani, former Punjab director-general of police K P S Gill, former Lok Sabha secretary-general Subhash Kashyap, artist Gopal Sharman and academic B B Dutta filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking its directive to the Centre to bring back over $ 1.4 trillion of Black Money allegedly stashed away in foreign banks between 2002 and 2006. The petition said directions should be issued to the government so that it can instruct foreign banks, particularly the USB Bank, to freeze the deposits of Indian nationals kept illegally with them. During the hearing on this PIL, the SC has rapped the Central Government on the knuckles several times. One such controversial issue was regarding sharing of the details of 26 Indians who had accounts in the Liechtenstein’s LGT Bank in Germany. The Govt initially resisted the demand but finally submitted to the Supreme Court the list of 26 Indians but at the same time rejected its sharing in the public domain saying that it would violate a sovereign agreement between India and Germany.

Similarly, there has been a huge debate over unearthing the Swiss Bank accounts held by Indians. The opposition parties particularly the BJP and the Left have been accusing the Govt of not doing enough to seek information from the Swiss Government who, in their opinion, has expressed its willingness to share the same based on specific request from the government of any country. It is believed that approximately one third (~ $500 billion) of the total black money is slashed in Swiss Bank accounts.

What will happen now?

Many people may not be aware, but Baba Ramdev has been actively campaigning against Corruption and Black Money through “Bharat Swabiman Andolan” (http://bharat-swabhiman.com/en/) a forum founded by him in 2009.

I have already posted Ramdev’s Letter to the PM listing his demands (https://virtualopinion.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/baba-ramdevs-letter-to-pm/). Media has selectively reported only those demands which would make better headlines such a death penalty for the corrupt, recall of Rs. 500 and 1000 bills etc. It is unlikely that Ramdev would really expect all his demands to be met and therefore he may have short listed his key demands already. The Government would argue that it has already initiated action on some of the key demands such as Lok Pal Bill and a new Land Acquisition Act. On some other such as recall of Rs. 500 and 1000, the government may argue that it is not a practical demand and may cite examples of the past. By the way, for those who may not be aware as far back as in 1946 Indian had notes of denomination as high as Rs. 10,000 and demonetization of higher denomination currency notes is not a new concept. As per the website (http://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/BS_CurrencyFAQView.aspx?Id=39#9) of Reserve Bank of India – “Rs. 1000 and Rs.10000 banknotes, which were then in circulation were demonetized in January 1946, primarily to curb unaccounted money. The higher denomination banknotes in Rs.1000, Rs.5000 and Rs.10000 were reintroduced in the year 1954, and these banknotes (Rs.1000, Rs.5000 and Rs.10000) were again demonetized in January 1978.”

Baba Ramdev certainly enjoys massive public support which explains why the UPA Government is not taking his threat lightly. Today when he arrived at Delhi, four senior ministers Pranab Mukherji, Kapil Sibal, Pawan Bansal and Subodh Kant Sahai and the Cabinet secretary K M Chandrashekhar were there at the airport to receive him. Not even the US President Obama had got such an unprecedented welcome. It will be interesting to watch the developments leading up to June 4 and beyond. My guess is that having hyped the matter so much, Baba Ramdev would not like to create an anti climax by calling off his fast. He would also not like to lose this opportunity to test and expand his mass base. However, he has to very carefully work out a strategy on how to end the fast with a winning note. Even if the Congress emissaries failed to persuade him to call off the fast, they must have certainly tried to get an assurance that the campaign is not used to directly attack the Congress Party and the  UPA Government. As the BJP and RSS have announced their full support to Ramdev, they will also try their best to extract the maximum political mileage from this event. To this extent, Ramdev’s fast is likely to polarize the Indian politics, the civil society and the media.

Public anger against rampant corruption has not died down after Anna Hazare’s fast and people would surely back any movement against corruption. Ramdev will surely use his Yoga teachings to keep the crowd glued to him and his unique and somewhat rustic oratory will provide enough entertainment for the masses. Unlike Anna Hazare, Ramdev is physically much more fit and can sustain the fast for a much longer period. It is worth mentioning here that Anna Hazare’s doctors were not too pleased after his fast and have attributed the deterioration in his heath to the long fast.

Baba Ramdev’s Letter to PM

Date 04-May-2011

To:

Dr. Manmohan Singh

Honorable Prime Minister

Republic of India, New Delhi

Sub.: Three (3) demands of Bharat Swabhiman from the central government to eradicate corruption and bring back black money in the interest of nation. (Refer Appendix A)

Dear Shri Manmohan Singh Ji:

Om with love

In a democratic system only the elected government has the power or right to grant main three demands listed in Appendix A of this letter.  Therefore the central government is bound to act immediately in a timely and systematic manner to show the whole nation orally and in writing with proof and transparency to do so, and has to clarify steps for its implementation.  If the central government did not do so then to eradicate corruption and save the nation we along with millions of citizens of this nation will sit on an “Eradicate Corruption Movement” in an indefinite fast till death in tradition of Mahatma Gandhi using our constitutional and moral rights to fulfill our demands; and at the same time millions of awakened and concerned citizens of this nation will also join this movement in all state capitals and district headquarters.  Although our whole movement and public demonstrations will be fully nonviolent and based on true values of humanity but during fasting if anybody suffers bodily harm or loss of life or resulting harm to the nation in any manner then the current central government shall be directly responsible for this.

We fully agree with the honorable prime minister who has previously accepted many times publicly that corruption is the biggest hurdle in the growth of the nation, and it is the root cause of poverty, hunger, paucity, illiteracy and Naxalites, etc.  At the same time everybody from the honorable congress president Smt. Sonia Gandhi to the honorable general secretary of congress Shree Rahul Gandhi who claim that they want to eradicate corruption and want to get the nation’s black money back to the nation will seriously consider our demands with full honesty, take an immediate decisive action on our demands in the interest of the nation, and will immediately inform us of their decision.  If the government does not take any decisive step to meet our demands to end an economy of corruption and black money from our nation which are raised in the interest of our nation then the nation has to face grave national problems of poverty, hunger, illiteracy, unemployment and resulting over population and Naxalite movement but the most important crucial loss will be our national security.  Today China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is Rs.265 trillion and her external debt is only Rs.18.3. trillions with a public debt of merely Rs.46 trillion, whereas the GDP of Bharat is only Rs.69 trillion.  Economically China is five (5) times stronger than Bharat and due to her strong economy and modern military power China can attack India anytime which she has indicated many times in the past; so if we succeed in eliminating corruption and bringing back black money then we will be five (5) times stronger than China.  Therefore, to save this nation and make her prosperous we ought to eliminate corruption at any cost and if we do not hear any positive response to our demands within a week then in the interest of the nation we will be compelled to resort to this sit-in hunger strike .

In anticipation of your positive reply.

Yours co-citizen,

(Swami Ramdev)

APPENDIX-A

Three (3) demands

1. To bring back in the nation Rs. 400 trillion (US$ 9 trillion) of black money which is a national wealth.

1.1. Create a law to declare money stashed in foreign accounts as national assets.

1.2. Create a law for foreign account policy where each citizen having a foreign account has to disclose complete information.

1.3 Sign US (or UN?) Convention against Corruption, thus paving way for getting black money back.

1.4 Recall high denomination currency i.e., 500 and 1000 Rupee notes and make 100 Rupee note as sparse as possible.

2. To stamp out corruption fully by enacting stringent laws for a capable Lok Pal Bill which should have three important points?

2.1 It should be able to punish any official irrespective of designation if found guilty.

2.2. Any person should be able to file FIR against corruption and if proofs are provided then Lok Pal should be able to take action against the guilty.

2.3. Once fast track court declares a person guilty of corruption then he or she should be given harsh punishment like death sentence or life imprisonment if corruption involves crores or lakhs of Rupees.  It should have provision of declaring all assets of such person as national assets.

3. To end foreign laws, customs and culture prevailing in the independent Bharat so that every Indian can get economic and social justice.  We should follow Mahatma Gandhi’s book named Hind Swaraj mentioning that after independence we need to remove British system and adopt Bhartiya system.

3.1. We need to abolish Land Acquisition Act 1894 because by using this Act the government is exploiting farmers.  A farmer who is the producer of food is not respected and is getting killed daily by wrong government policies.  We need to impose complete ban on genetically modified food which is dangerous for the health of citizens of this nation.

3.2. On the language issue the whole nation is suffering because 99% of people do not know English.  When countries like Japan, China, France, Germany, Denmark, Russia, etc. educate their citizens in their own language and produce doctors, scientists, engineers, etc. then why we cannot do so in our own national and native languages.  Each of our languages has more words than any foreign language.  Why we are neglecting and giving such a low importance to our own languages.  Technological innovations and inventions do not depend upon a language, it is a function of human intellect and mind and the world is a witness that Bhartiya’s thinking and mind is one of the best in the world.  Language of law, justice, science, engineering, medicine, etc. should be in our national or regional languages then only smart kids of poor people will be able to become scientists, doctors and engineers.

3.3. Why are we given Macaulay’s education system which was created to make Indians as Englishmen and why 34735 laws are created by British still imposed on this nation?  Why people of this country are still tortured and humiliated by using those laws in the same way as British used to do.

3.4. When Bharat has given the world physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, all social sciences, law and justice system, astrology, astronomy, astro-physics, social structure, time –days, years, etc., names of planets, economics, a cultured society and highly advanced philosophy, and spirituality to the whole world then why are we always taught that everything is developed by western world.  We ought to give highest preference to our own culture.

3.5. Although democratic system is best in the world but it has its demerits too.  Had we not have this faulty law and order system in our country then such a big conspiracy would not have been created, and so much corruption and such a bad condition of our people would not have happened.  So those people who are doing this conspiracy in the name of democracy and are looting this nation by corruption, it is imperative to change them and such a system.  Funding of election, mandatory voting and electing the Prime minister directly by the citizens of this nation should be there.  Thus only honest people will come to power and then only strong democracy and high value parliament will be formed.  We want to make it clear that we do not want to change the Constitution of India created by Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar but want to change the system created by British and still followed. Example Land acquisition act was not created by Late Shri Bhimrao Ambedkar but by the British and so was Macaulay’s education system.