Written By Nischal Srinivasan (Grade 12)
In 2005, Swami Ramdev, a prominent yoga guru and entrepreneur, found himself in the midst of a controversy involving two major issues. The first was related to labour laws at his Divya Pharmacy, which employed around 400 people. The second concerned allegations of not disclosing the ingredients in his medicinal preparations, which was a violation of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940.
Labour Law Controversy:
Ramdev faced criticism for alleged violations of labour laws at his Divya Pharmacy in Haridwar. Workers at the pharmacy, supported by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (associated with the CPI(M)), demanded better wages and insurance benefits. After protests and negotiations, a tripartite agreement was signed in May 2005, but the pharmacy failed to honour it and even implicated some workers in police cases.
Medicine Mislabelling and Contamination Allegations:
During the same time, CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat visited the site and was informed by workers that human skulls and animal parts were supposedly being used in the pharmacy’s medicines. Ramdev’s pharmacy denied these allegations, asserting that they only used sea shells and herbs in their preparations. The workers collected samples of two medicines, Kuliya Bhasm and Yauvanamrit Bati, from the pharmacy’s hospital and submitted them for testing. The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) found evidence of human and animal DNA in the samples. While Ayurveda allowed the use of certain materials, the pharmacy was found in violation of licensing and labelling laws under the Indian Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940.
The controversy intensified as Brinda Karat accused Ramdev of adulteration and labelling violations, backed by a letter from a Health Ministry official. Ramdev denied the allegations, claiming that no government agency had approached his pharmacy for testing and accused Karat of conspiring with pharmaceutical companies to tarnish his reputation. In January 2006, politicians from various parties expressed support for Ramdev, while Karat emphasized that her campaign focused on labour laws and consumer rights rather than opposing yoga or Ayurveda.
In the end, the Uttarakhand government cleared Ramdev of the allegations regarding the use of animal parts in medicines. However, this controversy underscored the importance of adhering to labelling and licensing laws and raised questions about labour practices within Ramdev’s business enterprises. It was a complex and contentious issue that brought to light concerns about labour rights.
Featured Image Courtesy – Outlook India