Yoga, Politicians And Corporates
By Vidyadhar Date
19 June, 2015
The celebration of Yoga day on Sunday , June 21, by the BJP government and politicians and corporates is fine. But they need to remember that Yoga is more than a grand spectacle of mass physical exercise.
True yoga is a way of life and it is a rejection of everything that the politicians and corporates have come to represent, power, profits, dominance, greed, exploitation. Yoga calls for restraint, ethical behavior, discipline, respect for the environment and the whole life around.
But yoga is excellent for physical and mental health and I have written before that the Left and other progressive forces should have adopted it as a programme of mass fitness and not allowed the right wing to capture the initiative. ( http://links.org.au/node/832 International Journal of Socialist Renewal). Americans have been much more imaginative, they have made it popular and respectable and some of the best research on Yoga is going on in the West.
But our middle and upper class is increasingly obsessed with the gym culture while a good section in the West is rejecting this closed door, expensive and often hazardous way of exercise. There is increasing trend of outdoor exercise in the West which is much more fun, more democratic, more open. There is nothing like walking barefoot on grass and this is the best season for that as the grass will be thick and tall in the coming days. We need such open, green, outdoor, easily accessible public spaces rather than expensive gyms with their stress on a macho, masculine, body culture.
There is also some contradiction in Prime Minister Modi’s stated passion for yoga and the fascination he has shown for high tech, corporate-dominanted superspeciality medical treatment. This was at the inauguration of new facilities at a hospital of the Ambanis in the heart of Mumbai last year.
The Ambanis have actually taken over two hospitals, one is Hurkisondas and the other is a hospital in Andheri for which heart specialist Nitu Mandke had worked hard. He had got free land after persuading the then Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. This means it should have clearly served common people at a negligible cost. Now, Mandke’s name does not figure anywhere prominently and the hospital is named after the Ambani brothers’ mother Kokilaben. And needless to say it is used mainly by the rich. Would the poor even dare to approach for treatment ?
While Mr Modi stressed the need for world class medical facilties at the Ambani function, which means facilities for the rich, his own party’s government was responsible a few days later for the death of several young women who had been subjected to a sterilization operation in Bilaspur in the BJP-ruled Chhatisgarh state. The Times of India was right in its heading in suggesting that the women were actually killed because of negligence in carrying out a most simple operation. This happened last November.
So the elite now wants super speciality , luxury hospitals for the rich while the poor are left to die in public hospitals.
Only a few days before inaugurating the ultra modern hospital of the Ambanis , Mr Modi was wild in singing praises of Mahatma Gandhi on his birth anniversary in October. Mr Modi seems to have no idea that Gandhi was extremely critical of doctors and the medical system in his brief but very important short booklet Hind Swaraj written more than 100 years ago. He said that we ourselves create many problems through overeating or indulging in other wrong practices. The doctors, instead of correcting the basic problem, only cure the symptom. Actually, in most cases nature has its own healing process. Gandhi called doctors worse than quacks. Gandhi said he had wanted to become a doctor to serve the country but gave up the idea when he saw what was happening.
The stress should be on preventive measures there is need to remind the guys that there is indeed a discipline in medical studies called preventive and social medicine. But it is being totally neglected. It is a big business for notorious multinational pharmaceutical companies and corrupt doctors to treat disease rather than prevent it.
One can now understand why Dr Harsha Vardhan, the union health minister, was stripped of his ministry and given another job. He was a supporter of the Gandhian approach to medicine even while being a medical practitioner by training. On Gandhi Jayanti day he had sent messages on mobile phones to doctors asking for suggestions on the Gandhian approach to health issues.
The sterling work done by Dr Prakash Amte and his doctor wife Manda is the theme of a Marathi film recently screened in Maharashtra with Nana Patekar in the lead role. Dr Amte was recently selected winner of the Mother Teresa award. We need such doctors. They are carrying on the noble work started by Baba Amte and his wife among leprosy patients in an extremely neglected, interior region in the thick jungle of Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. Prakash and his wife began work in 1970s in an area infested with large mosquitoes and with no electricity or any other basic amenity.
The government’s extreme callousness towards the public health system is demonstrated not only by the deaths of women in a simple operation in Chhatisgarh but also the proliferation of mosquitoes in prominent public municipal hospitals in Mumbai. Doctors say civic hospitals were themselves breeding grounds of mosquitoes which have created the havoc of a dengue epidemic last year. Shruti Khobragade, a doctor in the historic KEM hospital, herself died of dengue creating an outrage among doctors.
A scene outside film star Salman Khan’s house at B.J. Road on the seaside in Bandra tells a lot about the state of public health and morality in our country. Scores of poor people sit in a queue on benches on the promenade early in the morning from six. A doctor examines their papers, takes a look at the patients and writes out a cheque to meet the expenses. It is charity work by the film star. The contradiction is that here is a man who is convicted of serious charges, causing the death of two people through rash driving in a drunken state and killing wildlife in Rajasthan.
I chanced on the phenomenon of the charity seeking poor people in Bandra when I went to attend a workshop on yoga asanas and breathing exercises conducted by Dr M.R. Narayanarao, a preventive cardiologist, in Mumbai.
This nine day course was a revealation for me as it teaches us that with yoga we can create a society free of medicine and disease. It was held in the open space on the promenade. The space was free and that brings us to another question. We need to create hundreds of such open, free spaces where we can teach the masses how to lead healthy lives, healthy in body and mind.
(Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of the book Traffic in the era of climate change. Walking, cycling, public transport need priority)
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