Patanjali targeted by INC as it hurts Sonia Gandhi family’s benefactor?

Patanjali is in competition with many pharma firms that are looking for a vaccine for COVID to which Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donates

Balbir Jakhar, an advocate with known connections with the Indian National Congress (INC), has lodged a First Information Report (FIR) at the Jyoti Nagar police station in Jaipur against Baba Ramdev, CEO of Patanjali Ayurved Acharya Balkrishna and three others (Dr Balbir Singh Tomar, Dr Anurag Tomar and Anurag Varshney) for allegedly making “misleading” claims that the company had found a cure for the raging coronavirus disease (COVID-19) called Coronil.

Rajasthan Police has lodged the FIR under Section 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.

In Delhi over the past two days, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), through its president JP Nadda and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, have been attacking the INC for the Chinese contribution of $ 3,00,000 to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF), which the ruling party alleged also benefited from the Prime Minister National Relief Fund.

The misappropriation of funds by the INC, however, appears to run deeper. In 2012, the INC heads — the family of Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra and Rahul Gandhi — gradually turned RGF’s receipt of foreign donations dormant for reasons known best to them.

Thereafter, in a manner similar to how the family allegedly handled National Herald, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT), run by the same Nehru-Gandhi family, started receiving all the money. Among the several foreign donors to this trust is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), which purportedly grants it money primarily for activities related to healthcare and women’s empowerment.

Some transactions of the year 2015: Screenshot from the website

While it is anybody’s guess whether this was the reason Rahul Gandhi started shouting “women’s empowerment” from the rooftops thereafter, that is not the subject matter of this report.

Copies of original documents in the possession of Sirf News show that out of about Rs 250 crore that RGCT received from foreign sources, the grant from BMGF was Rs 40 crore.

Now, the BMGF is also a benefactor of a whole lot of pharmaceutical companies, some of which are competitors of Patanjali Ayurved.

Fundación INFANT, Vital Strategies, Inc, PT. Bio Farma (Persero), Enesi Pharma, Aurisco Pharma, mPharma, Intract Pharma, XGA Pharma, LLC, DKT International, Inc, Novartis Pharma AG, Statens Serum Institut, Retina Pharma, etc are some of the pharmaceutical companies and institutions to which the BMGF donates. One of the purposes for which the foundation of Bill and Melinda Gates donates to Vital Strategies Inc is “to strengthen epidemic preparedness capacity” as the BMGF’s website puts it.

One of the frontline projects of Vital Strategies is development of a vaccine to fight the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). And this company is merely a representative sample. This is not the only pharmaceutical company that the BMGF is donating to.

Now, in India, after the Ministry of AYUSH told Patanjali Ayurved that the latter could not advertise its products unless the government tested and possibly certified it, there have been only two state governments that sprung on their feet, threatening legal action against the firm headed by Acharya Balkrishna and Baba Ramdev: Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Is this pure coincidence?

“We would act tough against anyone selling cure of COVID-19 as no such medicine exists so far, which has been approved for the purpose,” Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma said on 25 June.

“An abundant warning to @yogrishiramdev that Maharashtra won’t allow sale of spurious medicines,” Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh wrote on Twitter.

More loyal than the king, Advocate Jakhar, who filed the FIR against Patanjali Ayurved heads, seems to have got amply motivated by the Rajasthan health minister’s rants.

The Rajasthan government of the INC tried to browbeat Jaipur’s National Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) into submission too but succeeded only partially. NIMS, which had collaborated on the development of Patanjali’s kit, has subsequently distanced itself from the ayurvedic drug and stated that no clinical trials of it were conducted at the hospital.

In a four-part exposé of foreign donors in early 2014 (later compiled in one place as a Facebook note), I had explained how these foreign NGOs cleverly pick such NGOs of India that have the potential to impact the nation’s politics. Notably, a foreigner cannot donate to a politician or a political party but, by the curious law of this country, an NGO run by a practising or would-be politician can get an FCRA clearance! Thus, it is not difficult for Indian politics to be dictated by foreign powers.

However, having also witnessed many a baseless allegation of money dictating policy, Sirf News sought a legal opinion to know whether the pathological aversion betrayed by some people in the country to Ayurveda had a monetary connection. Supreme Court lawyer Amitabh Sinha said, “It’s a clear case of circumstantial evidence. Identify who benefits if Patanjali loses.”

Amitabh Sinha

Citing cases of corruption such as disproportionate assets, Sinha said cases of the type have to be established on the basis of circumstantial evidence. “Consider Hamdard’s Safi. Which authority has tested and certified that it can purify the blood?” the senior lawyer posed, giving additional claims of Rooh Afza containing extracts of rose or the cream Fair & Lovely claiming it lightens the complexion of the user. “Why did the critics of Patanjali never attack Safi or Fair & Lovely? Why were the makers of these products not subjected to any criminal act?” Sinha asked.

From the medicine trade, Sinha gave examples of Glenmark Pharmaceuticals’ antiviral drug Favipiravir and Hetero Pharmaceuticals’ drug Covifor (Remdesivir), and pointed out there was no opposition to either.

Explaining how this resistance to Ayurveda comes from an anti-Indian mindset, Sinha recalled the memoirs of Pranab Mukherjee where the former president had politely written how Sonia Gandhi managed the affairs of the party and how the UPA-era defence minister AK Antony had written in his interim report to the INC high command that the party had lost the 2014 election due to the perception that it was an “anti-Hindu” party. Sinha said that Ayurveda being essentially an Indian and specifically Hindu science bore the brunt of attacks from the INC governments in states and the “Maino-Gandhi-led party at the Centre”.

Excerpts from Pranab Mukherjee’s book The Coalition Years (2017)

Without advocating Coronil, however, Sinha added that there was no harm if it was taken as a prophylactic while a patient follows the advices of practitioners of modern medicine as well. “But nothing explains this hateful campaign against Patanjali, which is actually a campaign against the progress of Ayurveda which threatens MNCs in the business who benefit the party behind the attack. A party that is essentially anti-Hindu and, therefore additionally, cannot stand Hindu science,” Sinha concluded.

By Surajit Dasgupta

The founder of Sirf News has been a science correspondent in The Statesman, senior editor in The Pioneer, special correspondent in Money Life and columnist in various newspapers and magazines, writing in English as well as Hindi. He was the national affairs editor of Swarajya, 2014-16. He worked with Hindusthan Samachar in 2017. He was the first chief editor of Sirf News and is now back at the helm after a stint as the desk head of MyNation of the Asianet group.

He is a mathematician by training with interests in academic pursuits of science, linguistics and history. He advocates individual liberty and a free market in a manner that is politically feasible. His hobbies include Hindi film music and classical poetry in Bengali, English, French, Hindi and Urdu.

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