New Delhi: Resident doctors and members of medical fraternity across the country protested on Tuesday against yoga guru Ramdev’s disparaging remarks against allopathy, seeking an unconditional apology from him or action against him under the Epidemics Act.
Emergency and OPD services remained unaffected as the doctors and other staff had decided not to hamper healthcare services and work sporting black ribbons on their arms in protest, which was called by the Federation of Resident Doctors Associations (FORDA),
In a purported video, Ramdev, who head a mutli-crore ayurveda empire, Patanjali, had rebuked allopathic medicines, such as Remdesivir, Fabiflu and other therapies given to patients during treatment for COVID-19.
FORDA had given the call for a nationwide protest and expected about 10,000 doctors to participate. It was later backed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).
Dr Sunil Arora, general secretary, FORDA, who serves at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi told NewsClick the Ramdev’s statement “reeks of insensitivity and endangers” the lives of people by promoting vaccine hesitancy.
“He is a pure businessman and just wishes to sell his medicine by rebuking allopathy and its practitioners. He knows very well that the doctors are very busy in dealing with pandemic and no one would come on streets to protest. He has millions of followers. If a person like him gives statements that essentially suggests not taking vaccines or wearing masks, how would we break the chain of infection?”
When asked for comments on Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan promoting Coronil by Patanjali, Arora said: “He (the minister) should have refrained from the event. He must have known that what he is promoting has been brought in market without any clinical trial !”
Talking to NewsClick, Sunil Duchania, president, Resident Doctors Association, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated Hospitals, said Ramdev’s statements are demoralising for healthcare workers, especially doctors, who are working tirelessly to contain the impact of the pandemic.
“The statements of Ramdev are unjustifiable. Who is he to make such sweeping comments against the medical professionals? What’s his eligibility to raise questions on our integrity? He is not qualified enough to talk about ayurveda, too. Also, he is adding fuel to vaccine hesitancy at a time when it is the only known panacea to prevent infection spread and casualties. He must understand that he is followed by millions of people and giving such statement endangers their lives. He must come out with unconditional public apology,” said Duchania.
GOVT INACTION QUESTIONED
The rage among the medical fraternity also seems to be growing against government inaction in the matter.
Dr Dnyaneshwar Patil, President of Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), told NewsClick that the Union health ministry should come clear if they really want to take any action against Ramdev.
“The protest was observed across the country and no emergency and OPD services were affected. Doctors observed the protest by tying a black ribbon on their arms. In Maharashtra, the protest was observed across Mumbai, Nashik, Yavatmal, Nanded among other districts”, he said.
Patil said: “We are observing this protest because this ‘baba’ enjoys the impunity at such a level that he is not afraid of any action even after making such senseless remarks. After huge pressure and protest, all Union minister Harsh Vardhan could do is to write a love letter to this man. Why this hesitancy? And why are BJP leaders promoting him?”
He pointed out that the BJP-led Haryana government had decided to distribute Coronil despite the fact that it cannot cure coronavirus effectively.
“I want to make it clear that we are not raising any question against ayurveda because this system has served the country for centuries. However, the limits of each treatment system are different. In an emergency situation, only allopathic medicines work to recover a person. Similarly, in chronic diseases, ayurveda has done wonders. But simply abusing and discrediting doctors will not be tolerated anymore,” Patil said.
Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti, Former RDA president, AIIMS, and President, Progressive Medicos and Scientists’ Forum, said the government and the ruling BJP seem to be scoring multiple points by bringing Ramdev into the entire scenario.
Talking to NewsClick over phone, Bhatti said Ramdev’s statements are intended to find any easy scapegoat for the entire mishandling of the pandemic.
‘The treatment of coronavirus brought about a renewed interest of people in the processes through which a person recovers. They knew names of medicines less known till now. They also got to know about the lacunae in the system and that the current medical facilities are not enough to serve them. You need just 7% of GDP to build health infrastructure every year and they would soon demand this,” he said.
Bhatti added that floating dead bodies and queues outside crematoriums had brought people’s anger upfront.
“In this scenario, the government needed an easy scapegoat like doctors who could be held responsible for the crisis. Ramdev is simply facilitating it. Similarly, through promoting vaccine hesitancy, he is again making it easy for government to not to deliver vaccines, as it is already facing the wrath of people for denying them vaccines when they need these the most. In this entire scenario, Ramdev wants to sell his dubious medicine and make profit,” Bhatti said.
When asked if the Patanjali owner’s statement hurt him personally, too, Bhatti said: ”Of course it does. We are seeing that our patients are dying despite our best efforts. We develop emotional attachment with them even when we treat them for two days. We skip our lunch, remain in PPE kits for 12 hours to deliver. And here’s a man who is mocking us and there is nobody to stand by us.”
On Tuesday, FORDA India even changed its Twitter profile picture to a dark poster that said 'Black Day'. Many RDAs from outside Delhi put up posts on social media in solidarity with FORDA.
(inputs from PTI)