Baba’s Pot Of Gold
Having unleashed the ongoing anti-corruption campaign, Baba Ramdev, one of its principal architects, now finds himself under the scanner. Allegations of misdeeds against him and his associates are mounting by the day even as the yoga guru continues to try and arm-twist the government on recovering black money stashed abroad. Given this scenario the question on everyone’s mind is: how did Ramdev, who moved around on a bicycle about a decade ago, build a Rs 1,100-crore empire without black money? “This is something that has to be investigated,” says Baba Hathyogi, spokesperson of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, an apex body of sadhus.
Top on the list of allegations is that money donated to his trusts (which is tax-exempt) has been funnelled by Ramdev to launch over 40 profit-oriented private firms that deal in herbal therapy, organic food and even broadcasting. While these accusations are yet to be substantiated, there is evidence of how Ramdev and his associates tried to evade stamp duty on land purchased in Haridwar. Papers available with Outlook show that the Haridwar SDM court had in August 2010 ordered Patanjali Ayurved Limited (PAL), one of the myriad firms in his empire, to cough up over Rs 45 lakh for failing to pay the required duties. The firm had countered that the purchased land was meant for cultivating ayurvedic plants—a farming activity. But the local administration found no farming done on the plots. The baba’s spokesperson, S.K. Tijarawala, couldn’t be reached by phone and did not respond to text messages.
The Haridwar-based Yog Gram, a resort promoted by Ramdev, is also embroiled in controversy—for illegally occupying plots of around 43 bighas. Occupied for nearly four years now, they lie scattered across the Yog Gram campus and belong to the neighbouring Aurangabad gram sabha villagers. Now infrastructure has been built on it, which has led to the villagers agitating. Finally, in May this year Ramdev was forced to offer land elsewhere in exchange, but the locals aren’t biting. As villager Ajab Singh Chauhan says, “We want our land back and we demand that the infrastructure on it be pulled down.” Haridwar SDM Harbir Singh feels the counter-offer came too late. “Maybe he was too busy to think of it,” he says.
This February, four Congress MLAs from Uttarakhand wrote to Ramdev asking that he subject himself to a CBI inquiry given the numerous allegations that have sprung up. “Cows in Uttarakhand probably don’t even drink that much water as the amount of cow urine he claims to sell,” says MLA Kishore Upadhyay. There are more worms in the Ramdev can. His principal associate Acharya Balkrishna, who is of Nepalese origin and holds Rs 3.10 of the 3.47 crore shares of PAL, is being probed for procuring an Indian passport and arms licences using false information.
The Ramdev saga has also implicated Congress leaders like Subodh Kant Sahay and N.D. Tiwari, who are close to him and have been accused of generously helping the baba. To this charge, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh reacts, “Not just Ramdev, anybody who has done something illegal, even if it’s me, has to be investigated.” As we go to press, the guru has issued a statement denying any wrongdoing and insisting his books are clean. But with IT and ED sleuths hot on his trail, it looks like the muckraking season is just beginning.
Apropos Waiting to Inhale, my wife and I are NRIs and life members of Patanjali Yogapeeth and have contributed substantial sums of money to the organisation. But there’s no transparency about the finances and governance structure of the baba’s various trusts. A complete, independent audit of the sources and use of funds by the various large religious institutions in India would be an eye-opener for the public. These entities should be held accountable to the people who contribute to them and the taxpayers who subsidise their activities.
Rakesh Varma, Ambala
All said and done, the Ramdev rom-com did provide comic relief to us viewers.
R.V. Subramanian, Gurgaon
Is the baba stunned that the world is turning upside down for him? And it’s not even because he’s in a sheershaasan.
For a change, why not forget the babas and try to educate the reader about how black money is flooding foreign accounts, how it’s causing inflation in India, how it’s utilised to fund political parties etc. For a change, why not a piece on the list of black money account-holders?
Intriguing that Outlook is outraged by Ramdev’s vast wealth but is unconcerned about the thousands of crores funnelled in by evangelist Christian organisations in the name of charities or the fact that this money is used to break families by engineering conversions. Doesn’t all this threaten the secular fabric of this nation?
Dr Shyam Sarvodey, Mysore
I am writing this from the UK and people here are laughing at our squirming government and its flailing attempts to cope with the corruption issue.
Reema Aggarwal, on e-mail
The Congress has some nerve calling others communal. This is the same party which has allied with a bunch of communal parties in Kerala and is completely dependent on them for survival now. PS: Since Manmohan Singh is so ‘honest’, why is the Congress nervous about including the PM under the Lokpal? Are they worried about the next Congress PM?
Anand Sriram, Mumbai
" Yoga camps where front-rw seata cost Rs30,000/- ;Rs 11 lakh for corporate ashram membership; sales of ayurvedic drugs."
What's objectionable about the above items? What's the point of mentioning or listing these, EXCEPT maybe to show the authors' jaundiced view of everything Baba is doing and their utter inability to give credit where credit is due.
I am astonished the authors don't comprehend that the amounts of Rs 30,000/- and Rs 11 lakh mentioned in the article actually represented voluntary donations by the concerned individuals and corporates to aid some very LAUDABLE causes, i.e. (a) promoting Yoga among masses by sponsoring or subsidising Ramdev's Yoga camps in towns and cities, and (b) the corporates working to expose their management and executives to Yoga and to a healthy,close-to-nature, stress-free life-style which an association with Baba's Ashram would potentially yield, at least in most cases.
The authors' jaundiced view is further underlined by omission of the MOST IMPORTANT FACT of Ramdev's work and life, viz. that he's probably the greatest populariser of Yoga in our country in this century. So much for a balancd view! The article is out and out a hatchet job on a great benefactor of this country.
As with Yoga, Baba has probably drawn more Indians to Ayurveda than any other person in the present century, thanks to his very extensive network of ayurveda centres and high quality of the Ayurvedic preparations of his laboratories.. This is a natural outcome of a cultural affinity which many Indians have for nature-based remedies as opposed to their distrust of allopathic medicine. No doubt, it has been financially as well a very successful undertaking. But who are the article's authors to fault Baba for this?
So, I don't know what this article is all about if it is not just about joining in the anti-Baba chorus led by Digvijay Singh et al.
hmmmmmm corruption stories abt him now!..is the baba stunned the world is turning upside down for him? and its not even because hes in a sheershasana.
For a change Outlook should stop focusing on Baba & about his money & try to educate citizens of India about how the black money is flooded out of India into foreign accounts. How black money is causing inflation in India especially property market. Also how it is utilised in funding political parties & thus creating the cancer of corruption we are fighting. For a change please write an article on what happend to the list of black money account holders.
Stop wasting money on reporters & articles which are not enriching the debate of corruption. It is not only Baba's problem, it is your mine and every citizen of India's probelm. Forget about baba, in a democracry you are innocent till found guilty. So if Baba has amassed illegal wealth he along with the trust should be duly prosecuted. Thats that let move on. He is doing his bit to spread the message of yoga, ayurved, medication through hospital etc. What are you doing. What is your contribution.
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