Indian Health Minister Accused of Promoting Untested Covid Medicine

India’s Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan launching the COVID India Seva on April 21, 2020. Photo: GoI (file photo)
India’s Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan launching the COVID India Seva on April 21, 2020. Photo: GoI (file photo)

In this apparent quid pro quo case where Ramdev helps Modi and BJP in politics, the Modi government has tried to promote Ramdev’s untested medicine Coronil, which can be fatal on Indian consumers.

By Rakesh Raman

While the Indian government continues to neglect coronavirus and its lethal impact on Indians, new reports suggest that the government is promoting spurious drugs and playing with the lives of the citizens.

According to reports, India’s health minister Harsh Vardhan has endorsed a product of a local outfit Patanjali, which falsely claimed that it is offering the “first evidence-based medicine for corona” approved by the WHO.

But WHO has rejected the claims, saying that WHO has not reviewed or certified the effectiveness of any traditional medicine for the treatment Covid-19. After WHO’s clarification on February 19, Patanjali – owned by Ramdev who is close to PM Narendra Modi – retracted its misleading claim.

Although Ramdev is among the capitalists who are close to Modi and his party BJP, he prefixes his name with Baba to falsely give himself the status of a saint. Since most Indians are uneducated, they blindly follow those who call themselves Baba, Mata, etc. These self-styled demigods deceive the people to help corrupt politicians.

In fact, it is said that Ramdev is among the main BJP supporters who help Modi win elections by enticing voters with their tricks. In an article, “The Billionaire Yogi Behind Modi’s Rise,” The New York Times has analyzed that Ramdev built a business empire out of mass yoga camps and ayurvedic products. “But is his pious traditionalism a mask for darker forces?” the article asks.

In this apparent quid pro quo case where Ramdev helps Modi and BJP in politics, the Modi government has tried to promote Ramdev’s untested (or may be harmful) medicine Coronil, which can be fatal on Indian consumers.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), a leading association of doctors in India, has censured Modi’s health minister Harsh Vardhan who appeared to endorse Ramdev’s Coronil.

“If Coronil is effective for prevention, why is the government spending Rs 35,000 crore (US$ 5 billion approximately) for vaccination,” asked the IMA and demanded details of the so-called research or trial on the basis of which Ramdev’s company Patanjali had made the claim.

“Being a health minister of the country, how ethical is it to release such falsely fabricated unscientific products to the people of the country?” asked the IMA in its  statement. The IMA also objected to Baba Ramdev’s derogatory statements about allopathic doctors and modern medicine.

According to a Times of India news report of February 23, at an event held on February 19 in New Delhi, health minister Harsh Vardhan and transport minister Nitin Gadkari were present when Patanjali founder Ramdev claimed that a medicine called Divya Coronil tablet is part of the treatment for coronavirus.

Later, according to the report, Ramdev claimed on several news channels that the medicine has also received certification from the WHO and can be exported to as many as 158 countries. As the Modi’s ministers are promoting such dubious products in the Indian market, they are part of the government-run scandal around coronavirus treatment.

This is not the only case where Harsh Vardhan has bungled. In fact, there are serious safety concerns about the Covid vaccines which are being used in India. For instance, the Chhattisgarh state in India has complained about the vaccines being delivered by the Indian government.

Chhattisgarh health minister TS Singh Deo has written a letter to India’s health minister Harsh Vardhan to explain the safety concerns of the vaccines. Deo has publicly expressed his government’s concerns about Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.

According to reports, Harsh Vardhan has given some explanation about the concerns raised by the Chhattisgarh minister. However, Deo has requested the Central government to halt the supply of Covaxin to Chhattisgarh until these issues are addressed.

Among the other issues, it is largely being seen that the Indian government is not revealing the reliable data about the Covid-19 infections, deaths, and vaccines. The citizens have to mostly rely on the political rhetoric of PM Narendra Modi who often appears on TV like a demigod to brag about his achievements, which cannot be verified.

Modi is neither releasing the true coronavirus data nor the details of a secret Covid fund that he had floated to collect public money to deal with the Covid crisis. People are urging Modi to make the details of PM-CARES Fund public, but his office has refused to entertain public requests about the transparency of the Fund.

While other leaders such as the U.S. President Joe Biden received Covid vaccine on live TV to instill confidence among Americans about the safety of vaccines, Modi should also have taken the vaccine publicly instead of delivering baseless sermons about the virus.

As Modi’s negligence caused a countrywide Covid disaster, it amounts to crimes against humanity. A human rights activist Harsh Mander said that Modi’s 60-day coronavirus lockdown in India, announced with four hour’s notice, was: “A crime against the people of India. It is and must be recognized to be a crime against humanity.”

But Modi continues to work in a careless manner. Since Modi is an illiterate man, he cannot speak properly in interactive discussions. That’s why he has not held even a single press conference about coronavirus or any other issue during the past over 6 years of his despotic rule. This is one of the reasons that most educated people do not trust Modi and his claims.

Although India officially reports only about 11 million Covid infections, the latest national sero-survey released by the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) in February 2021 reveals that over 21% or 250 million Indians aged above 10 had coronavirus.

Under these precarious circumstances, the world leaders must advise the Modi government to release auditable Covid data so that the flow of infection from India to other countries could be stopped.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.

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