Baba Ramdev, India’s most popular and powerful yoga guru, has vowed to fast unto death to fight corruption. His critics believe his fasting is politically motivated.
Renowned yoga guru Baba Ramdev has protest against corruption
Thousands of people from all parts of the country have begun to pour into the capital to join the charismatic Swami Ramdev in his fight against corruption. Ramdev, who runs a 40 million US dollar-a-year global yoga and health empire, says he is fighting corruption for "national interest" and that there is no political or company sponsorship involved.
"This is not an agitation sponsored by a foreign company. This is not a program sponsored by Coca-Cola or Pepsi. This is not even sponsored by the Indian company Hindustan Lever, but a program supported by the people of India," says Ramdev.
No turning back
The yoga guru plans to hold his fast unto death in a 250,000-square-foot tent in the heart of the capital. Such is his popularity that India's most powerful government ministers turned up at the airport to greet Ramdev and persuade him to call off the strike. They failed, and were forced to carry out a third day of talks.
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Some of the government’s important allies have criticized the attempts to mollify Ramdev. Dinesh Trivedi is from the Tirnamool Congress, the most important ally in the federal coalition. He has also criticized the government, saying: "Here is a person who comes in a jet plane, lands in Delhi airport and almost the entire cabinet goes: 'Why? Please don’t go hungry!'"
Ramdev wants the government to set up a special task force to bring black money back to the people and to set up a trust so that the money can be used for welfare policies exclusively for the poor. In addition, he wants the government to ratify the United Nations Convention against corruption, remove high denomination currency and enact a strong Lokpal or Ombudsman Bill.
But not everyone is impressed by Ramdev's agenda as they believe his hunger strike is politically motivated. His critics believe his ideas are no roadmap to end corruption - critics like Vineet Narain, who is an anti-corruption activist. He believes fasting, a method adopted by Mahatma Gandhi, is "misused by various organizations for vested interests. With regards to Ramdev, I have a different observation." He says while Ramdev has done a lot of good for the people of the country by teaching them yoga, "he has also made good use of corporate culture and corporatized the whole Vedic tradition of teaching yoga or ayurveda which used to be a selfless practice. I find he lacks political maturity to give a solution to the whole problem."
Indian PM Manmohan Singh's government has been involved in a string of corruption allegations
Ramdev’s fast would be the second by a prominent public figure to force the government to ratify the anti-graft bill that gives an independent ombudsman police-like powers to prosecute ministers, bureaucrats and judges.
In April, veteran Gandhian activist Anna Hazare, who is in his 70s, went on a hunger strike over the bill, triggering anti-graft protests by thousands of people across the country. Two months later, the government is starting to feel the heat again.
Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Sarah Berning