t was International Yoga Day, a great initiative by the Ministry of Ayush and making it more prominent by our PM is extraordinary. But who is actually participating in it? We the Mumbaikars, are busy in bread earning exercise. This day is no holiday and 99 per cent working class people really don’t care about it. One-month prior to the date, there were WhatsApp messages from different political groups and social groups inviting to participate in such day. Social media sites were flooding with their pictures, media was after celebrities and politicians. Meanwhile, the common man was struggling in commuting. A shelter, food, job, money etc. are the needs of every common man.
In a city of over 20 million people, space is understandably at a premium in Mumbai. For the working class, daily life in Mumbai is commonly played out in what is called chawls — multi-level tenements with single small rooms, which usually accommodate a whole family, often with a shared bathroom for each floor. There’s little privacy but the benefits are a strong sense of camaraderie and support. Those who are staying in flats are too living in a congested area. There is no window to see the Sun or get some breeze, where will they do Yoga?
Many Yoga gurus and health freak celebrities keep saying that in today’s world people need Yoga more than ever. Yoga is for mental, physical and spiritual health. Maybe this is the reason Baba Ramdev became a star overnight in the past 10 years. Ramdev founded the Divya Yog Mandir Trust in 1995. In 2003, the Aastha TV began featuring him in its morning Yoga slot. There he proved to be telegenic and gained a large following. A large number of people, celebrities from India and abroad attended his Yoga camps. He taught Yoga to many celebrities and in foreign countries including Britain, the US, and Japan. He actually made Yoga an Indian brand.
BJP government made it an extraordinary event spending crores of taxpayers’ money. There is a compulsory participation for government employees, police, and politicians to celebrate the International Day of Yoga. Government offices were empty; no babus were at their workstation. Police personnel were deployed because all celebrities came on the roads to participate in such an event. On the other hand, the private sector was working as usual. Yoga has been practiced in India for thousands of years, it’s taught in many schools and individuals or groups can be seen doing asanas (Yoga poses) in parks across the country. These days it’s overhyped. No small accomplishments by any measure, yet, what is the image of our country on the international platform? Indians are becoming penny-wise, pound-foolish. Our media and civil society is focusing on all sorts of silly things and that means not focusing on the big things. An International Yoga day expense is about $5 million. It is a total non-issue for a country of the size of India. With our growing tourism industry that expenses will be repaid by this sector in a matter of hours, leave alone days and months. And again there was this huge brouhaha about meal subsidy to our Members of the Parliament. Of all the things we do to those white elephants, is their meal subsidy the biggest thing to talk about? If India could increase its GDP growth by even 1 per cent, that is Rs 1.2 lakh crores extra every year, if the GDP growth is 8 per cent instead of 7 per cent, Rs 1.2 lakh crore get added to the Indian economy. If the GDP grows by 0.1 per cent, that is the money needed for India to send a man to the Moon. Shouldn’t you want your government to focus on that big number rather than some praises spent on member canteen and Yoga day?
Over the past few decades, Yoga has also grown in popularity in the West where it has become a multibillion-dollar industry and been endorsed by the celebrities like Madonna. This event was supposed to bring people together, but statements by the senior BJP leaders are polarising people. These are damaging and unnecessary.
Yoga is in a way Hindu word because it comes from Gita and Shiva was the first yogi. And the way the BJP is projecting it, there seems to be an agenda here.
Actually, Yoga has no caste, creed or religion and by practising it a person can become a good human being. So it’s for everyone because everyone wants to be happy.
India had made grand plans to ensure the success of International Yoga Day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is a self-declared huge yoga enthusiast and according to reports practices it daily, attended Yoga day with tight security. Similar events were also organised in hundreds of Indian cities and towns and across the globe too. Popular Yoga gurus with hundreds of thousands of followers, smaller private Yoga studios and individuals also participated in the event which the Indian government hoped will get into the Guinness Book of Records and Rajasthan witnessed a world record by conducting the largest Yoga session to mark the 4th International Yoga Day at Kota where over one lakh people together performed the yogic exercises. Yoga guru Ramdev conducted the Yoga session that was attended by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, ministers, officers and local people at RAC ground in the presence of two officials from the Guinness World Records.
Yoga as a business worldwide is a huge business of $80 bn which in Indian terms is equal to Rs 5,00,000 crore per year. Some of it comes to India or to organisations based in India with centers in the US and other countries.
Spirituality, Meditation, Yoga and Indian philosophy are becoming more and more known in the western countries. This would be the greatest soft power in India’s favour. Soft Power has always been the strength of India. Since we can’t afford Hard Power, we should continue to project our soft power; it is very cost effective as well. But still we may talk volumes of good things about Yoga; the bottom line is that, do we really afford to do it? Even if we do it or those who are practising Yoga are guaranteed with good health and no illness? I am not trying to be a critic, but I just want my hard earned money, the tax that I pay to the government, should be used and spent wisely. India has crucial issues of privileges and poverty; there are people who have everyday exercise to fill their stomach; in such a crisis situation, we need to empower Yoga without wasting resources.
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