When I was studying engineering in India, one entrepreneurial chap in India decided that he wanted to start a channel only for adults. I am assuming this kindred spirit to be a guy. No, I am not a sexist. Its just that men seem to be more interested in porn than women. The name of the channel was to be "Plus 21". Guys in the hostels opened their hidden Aritocrat Premium (hideously bad whisky!) bottles in joy after hearing the news. There was light at the end of the tunnel for the eternally frustrated population of the male dominated engineering colleges of India. However, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, then the Information and Broadcasting Minister of India, put cold water on not only the plans but also on ..., you get the idea! Anyways, she nixed the proposal in order to preserve the moral culture of the Indians. On hindsight, I must say that this act did not go unpunished by God. The sighs and the abuses hurled by millions of young men in India had some effect and we got our revenge in the downslide of Mrs. Swaraj's career as a politician. There is justice in the world!
After that disappointment and emergence of Ekta Kapoor as the "Chosen One", I have never been interested in happenings on Indian television scene until now. These are exciting times on Indian television and I do not mean that in any immoral sense. Recently, a series of sting operations carried out by the intrepid reporters from some channels exposed 12 Ministers of Parliaments (MPs) while they were taking bribes. The bribes were given by disguised journalists who wanted the ministers to raise questions regarding certain interest areas in the Parliament. I protested noisily after reading the news here in United States. Come on! Is this called a bribe? This is a clear and honest case of legitimate lobbying. If you do not believe me, ask your friendly neighborhood Non-Returning Indian (NRI) about the difference between bribes and lobbying. He/she will write a thesis on the subject while singing hosannas about how US is such a perfect society with so little corruption.
OK, enough of all this. I have to justify the title of my blog and I have already strayed from my original thoughts. Anything related to Mrs. Swaraj makes me go bonkers. Getting back to the point, this blog is about the beauty - Mrs. Brinda Karat and the hirsute - Swami Ramdev. The controversy in question is the one related to the pharmaceutical factory run by Swami Ramdev and his trust to manufacture ayurvedic medicines.
For the uninitiated, Mrs. Karat is the politburo member of the most prominent leftist party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist). In brief, it is called CPI-(M). She was once upon a time an air hostess in Air India and that is the reason that I termed her as a beauty. While working with Air India with her half Bengali and half Punjabi background, the Vietnam war jolted her consciousness. This cataclysmic event triggered something fundamental in her because she decided to leave the job and join CPI-(M). I would say that it was a good career move on her part after looking at the state of Air India nowadays and the rise of the CPI-(M) from the ashes in the last elections. While executing this crossover, she managed to get married to Prakash Karat, a prominent leader of CPI-(M). She also has fame by association. Her sister, Radhika Roy is married to the head honcho of the New Delhi Television (NDTV), Prannoy Roy.
Swami Ramdev was born as Ram Kishan in Kalwa village, Narnaul district, Haryana. He went to attend the gurukul of Swami Baldev at the age of four. It seems he decided to become a sage at the age of four and half. Swamiji has become a media phenomenon in India. He popularized the use of Yoga among Indian masses in order to stay fit. He is a regular feature not only in religious channels like Aastha but also in mainstream entertainment channels like Sahara One in India. Surprisingly, for a man who has extracted so much mileage out of modern electronic media, he claims that he has not seen a single movie on the screen till date. He has also survived on a fruitarian diet for the last two years. It seems that he grew his facial hair while meditating in the hills of Himalayas some years ago. Therefore, I decided to call him the hirsute.
Few days back, in a much publicized gathering, Mrs. Brinda Karat, announced that she had collected samples of medicines manufactured by Swami Ramdev's pharmaceutical factory and sent them to some central labs for testing. Shockingly, the tests revealed that the samples sent by Mrs. Karat, contain traces of human and animal remains. The Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Dr. A. Ramadoss, confirmed the findings. This started a war of allegations played with the help of media. Swami Ramdev fired his first salvo alleging that Mrs. Karat is acting at the behest of the multinationals in order to tarnish his image among the believers. I can say with authority that if Mrs. Brinda Karat is acting as a front for MNCs in order to destroy Swamijis business, the MNCs have to belong to either China or Cuba. As far as I know, Cuba does not have any MNC doing business in India. I am not that sure about China. If Swamiji is indicating that Mrs. Karat is promoting American or Western European companies, I must say he needs to return to his cave in the mountains to start meditation again as soon as possible. But again, anything is possible in this magical world.
Probing further, the partial truth of the matter started revealing itself. It seems that Swamiji's pharma company had fired some workers few months back. Whenever the words "workers' rights" is uttered in India, it is synonymous with the party CPI-(M). CPI-(M)'s version of workers' rights seemingly contain the clause that even though a worker is unproductive and uncooperative, he/she has to be retained by the company for the sake of the proletariat all around the world. These are the same guys who want to introduce unions in the thriving BPO and the software sectors. Americans who have lost their jobs to India might be dancing with joy now. To make a long story short, CPI-(M) decided to interfere on behalf of the workers. In spite of all the negotiations done by the unions and Mrs. Karat, Swamiji's pharma company refused to reinstate the thrown out workers. Mrs. Karat decided to get back to him in a way that is becoming quite popular in India - trial by the media.
This procedure involves making wild, seemingly outrageous, allegations in the media against a party with whom you need to sort out some issues. These public allegations provoke outrage by people against whom the allegations have been made. The opposing party goes on the defensive trying to make amends for the damage to the reputation and, eventually, succumbs to the need for arriving at a compromise in order to protect its interests. Communists in India with their concern for the poor on their well-ironed, starched sleeves are particularly adept at this. However, this time, Mrs. Karat made a mistake. The mistake was to underestimate the popularity of Swami Ramdev and his influence among politicians and normal people of India. After her media conference in which Mrs. Karat made the allegations, it became clear to her that she and CPI-(M) are alone in this battle against the venerable Swamiji. None of the allies of CPI-(M) in the electoral politics came out in support of Mrs. Karat. Even people within CPI-(M) like Mr. Subhas Chakraborty from West Bengal criticized her. Eventually, her husband, Prakash Karat saved the day by his influence within the party.
In the meantime, Swamiji's supporters, in the grand old tradition of Indian politics, promptly went and ransacked the Delhi office of CPI-(M) in anger. This is a strange tradition in a country that got its independence through a non-violent movement. I hae never been able to understand it. Moreover, Swamiji should know better about the merits of non-violence after meditating in the Himalayas for eternity.
This whole episode of war through media has left some unanswered questions that nobody is talking about:
- Why were the workers fired from the pharma factory run by Swamiji?
- Does Swamiji's organization conform to all the labor laws?
- If the workers were fired from the factory, did the company follow all the legal procedures?
- How were the medicine samples that were sent for testing to the labs collected?
- Who provided these samples to Mrs. Karat for analysis?
- Were the samples used for testing tampered with before sending to the labs?
- Do the medicines from the pharma factory really contain traces of animal and human remains?
- What happens to Mrs. Karat if the allegations regarding the Swamiji and his pharma company prove to be false?
Mrs. Karat expressed her disgust recently at the way in which the main issues regarding this controversy has been sidelined by the personal war between her and the Swamiji through the media. What she does not admit is that her actions in the beginning is responsible for this. She started a fire that went out of control and she does not know what to do with it. She could have used some brains, official channels and legal methods to properly investigate the allegations against Swamiji's establishment. Instead, she resorted to cloak and dagger tactics and destroyed her own credibility. Truth is the first casualty when a war is on. Brinda Karat and CPI-(M), master of all revolutionary tactics, should have known that.