By Abhishek Kumar
Post liberalization (early 1990s) there has been a vast change in the way of living of the Indian middle class. Rapid urbanization has introduced its inherited malice on the people’s health. Extra work load in the competitive market, contaminated food, unhygienic drinking water, choked traffic system, polluted air etc have degraded the quality of physical and mental fitness of the people living in it.
Baba Ramdev emerged as the sole savior of the society, specially the middle class, at the time when there was a great sense of health insecurity among them. His yoga lessons, through his camps, T.V shows, CDs, DVDs, books and internet offered a relief to many.
The sense of health insecurity could wisely be guessed looking at the huge number of health insurance consumers among the middle class people during this period.
In the Indian middle class, marginally after early 80s and predominantly after early 90s (post economic liberalization period), there has been an emergence of two morally confronting groups.
One, generally in tune with the time zone of the western world, showing their full authority over the imitative attributes obtained by them. Mostly occupied by young adults, this band of people, often late risers, are likely to park themselves in gymnasiums, fast food joints, discotheques, pubs, Hollywood movie shows, branded fashion outlets, cyber cafes and whatever one can think their western counterparts do.
Group ‘two’ mostly occupied by the adults in their late thirties and above, show a contrasting behavior. Most of them early birds are always found to be preoccupied with the family burden on their shoulders. They are mostly married job holders or retired ones, earning for their family or looking after them, are likely to park themselves most of the time in their office, a social function or home. Wearing normally a decent and formal outfit this class of people hates the latest trending bollywood movies and songs which they think are full of vulgar contents, needless to talk about Hollywood stuffs then!
Interestingly members of both these groups are usually found in a same house; Parents normally belonging to group ‘two’ and children to group ‘one’.
It’s this burden of responsibility complimented by their ageing physique, which has lured them to get attached to a health insurance, or for that matter, many!
Baba Ramdev took a very articulated decision to introduce the idea of ‘yoga’ to the aging middle class. This idea served in two ways; first, of course it offered a rejuvenative spark in minds of the people and tried regaining their deteriorating physical and mental conditions. Secondly, yoga being indigenous, served well to their moral esteem. They saw yoga as a bang on the western medical world and so, on their counter Indian middle class group.
Why Baba Ramdev and his products could not reach out the poor farmers in the village? Why not to the slum dwellers in the city? Why not to the labors working in factories? Why not to the other low income group of people?
Now, to say this class couldn’t be reached due the crisis of television sets or DVD players at their homes would absolutely be wrong because there is no such crisis at all.
The answer lies in his class targeted products. Herbal shampoos, hair growing creams, sugar free murabbas, beauty creams, tooth paste, tooth brush, digestive tablets, Aloe Vera juice and even ‘kurtas’ and ‘salwar suits’ (a traditional Indian wear) for men and women.
Moreover, there may be only a few or may absolutely not be any record of him hosting a ‘yoga’ camp in a village affected with the curse of poverty. Though he offers some herbal medicines for some common diseases like fever, cold, cough etc; his products are far away from the reach and need of a person with low income.
Till recent when the Baba was at the epitome of being a yoga guru, he realized the serious concern of the society about corruption. Corruption seemed to be unifying both the groups of the middle class. Baba missed no opportunity in showing his leadership traits in the wake of corruption and called for a nation wide anti corruption crusade. There was a huge gathering in the ‘Ramlila Maidan’ in Delhi with about 65000 followers hosted by Baba. A success of this mission might have extended his consumer base to the rest of the middle class but a tragic incidence occurred at night, the police raided the camp being about 10,000 of them. Baba Ramdev took a fugitive jump from his stage and clad him in a female outfit in the fear of getting arrested. The crowd of 65,000 was smoked off in no time!
What went wrong?
Baba forgot that the support he was getting was from the same middle class who are preoccupied of family responsibilities. Nothing comes before family to them. The sense of insecurity always dominates in their minds. It’s not Baba Ramdev’s personality or his yoga genius what made 65,000 people gathered up. Corruption has directly affected their lives and they wanted to vent their anger but at the same time no one wanted to be on the front face. Baba was just filling that void space of a leader who was ought to navigate the anti corruption crusade. It’s the will and confidence of a leader which gives confidence and fuel to the movement, but Baba’s attempt to escape the site, shattered the mental resilience of the followers and the Baba’s crusade against corruption dimmed and extinguished.
Since then, there has been a continuous a decline in Baba’s fan club. There have been questions over the genuineness of his products, his trust’s balance accounts, politically motivated actions and authenticity of his claims over successful treatment of cancer and leukemia.
Baba ramdev was not only a yoga guru, he was a mentality. The exercises and products he offered, may have shown results to many but it was the trust of his name which cured the psychological diseases of the rest.
Baba is now back on track rebuilding his fan database, but will he be able to get the same reputation as before, is a big question mark!
Abhishek Kumar, IAS aspirant, Patna, Bihar(India)