Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Focus: What More Baba Ramdev Get In Addition To Cabinet Status And Y-Category Security In Haryana?

The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Haryana announced its decision to bestow Ramdev with the status of a cabinet minister. 

Ramdev, who rose to fame over the last decade through television broadcasts of his yoga instructional camps, had expressed support for the BJP’s 2014 election campaign. In January, two months after the BJP came to power in Haryana, the state government appointed him the state's brand ambassador to promote ayurveda and yoga. 

It also announced plans to make yoga mandatory in schools, to build yogshalas in all towns and villages, to convert an ayurvedic college into a university and to start ayush (non-allopathic) departments in state hospitals.

During the budget session in the state assembly in March, the opposition party, the Congress, alleged that the government was "going out of the way to please Baba Ramdev." But the opposition's criticism has not dented the government's enthusiasm for the yoga guru. 

According to a 2012 statement by the state government, cabinet ministers are entitled to Rs. 40,000 in basic salary and another Rs. 30,000 in terms of different allowances. Depending on the length of their term, after they have left office, they draw pensions ranging from Rs. 7,500-Rs 10,000. 

But Ramdev might not draw a salary from the state. Official sources in Haryana government told PTI that those who are given the status of cabinet minister do not draw ministerial salary and allowances. They are, however, entitled to perks that include:
  • official accommodation and allowances upto Rs 40 lakh to repair the house
  • two state cars for official purposes along with a Rs 10 lakh advance for buying a car
  • one special assistant to manage official business
  • free and unlimited phone, electricity and water
  • free stays at official guest houses and an escort to and from his accommodation
  • security cover upto Y level, depending on the threat perception assessed by central government agencies
But the real gains that accrue to Ramdev might lie in the realm outside ministerial perks. While announcing the cabinet minister status for Ramdev, Haryana's minister for health and sports Anil Vij told that the Haryana government would be signing a memorandum of understanding with Ramdev's Patanjali Yogpeeth "in a day or two."

Patanjali Yogpeeth is headquartered in Haridwar in Uttarakhand. Over the last decade, it has grown into a large business empire. According to report Ramdev runs "a 100-bed hospital, an Ayurveda college, a university, a real estate business and a mini hospitality industry at the sprawling Haridwar campus." The medicines produced at the campus are sold across India under the Patanjali brand. 

The terms of Patanjali Yogepeeth's MoU with Haryana government are not clear yet. But this agreement, and not the ministerial perks for Ramdev, would merit more scrutiny in the days to come.

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