Is Commercial Spiritualism a Parallel State?

Bhaskar Majumder

I knew the existence of one state in India – the sovereign state by pledge of the Constitution of India. Now functionally I find more than one.  Let me explain.

A state frames rules and follows it too. When some persons or agencies formulate their own rules and asks people to follow it, it seems they run a parallel state. If the sovereign political state shuts its eyes, the parallel state functions better. Alternatively, the parallel state may develop some collusion with the sovereign state to make it shut its eyes for a reasonable period that helps the parallel state to hit the iron while it is hot. Let me explain with example.

As reported, one of India’s pioneering commerce-cum-spiritual agencies invented Coronil for Covid-19 treatment and advertised it to the fullest extent perhaps without the knowledge of the Government of India. The particular agency launched the Coronil kit priced at Rs 545 that is claimed to be a cure for corona virus. The medicine kit will be available through the OrderMe app and in stores soon. This is a magical 'cure' for the respiratory disease Corona.

This concept of a parallel state is not privatization – it is co-existence of formal Constitutional state and informal extra-Constitutional state. Innocent people participate in both – mostly unknowingly. For example, many people not only in rural frame of innocence but also in urban educated frame of innocence will not make any delay to get ready cure through Coronil. The formal state probably will distance itself from both the buyers and the monopolist – probably to the detriment of the buyers, economically speaking.

While science is trailing behind the need to invent cure, the monopolist has invented the Ayurvedic medicine to cure the Corona virus – people had been waiting to get it. Ayurved has a high reputation in India’s tradition.

A few hours after the launch, the Union Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) asked the Monopolist to provide detailed information about Coronil and studies it conducted. The Ministry also mandated that until the details were examined by it, the firm should stop advertising and publicising its claims. It is reported that the Coronil has been made from a combination of natural immunity-boosting substances such as Mulethi (liquorice), Giloy (moonseed), Tulsi (basil) and Ashwagandha (Indian ginseng). It is also reported that Coronil had more than 100 compounds. What is not comprehended must be very useful like the language of Sanskrit. Or, like Chemistry – how many in Bharat understand chemical mix? And 100 compounds – people know 100 – so it must have much utility.

People cannot wait – they are eager to get rid of home-locked syndrome. Their confidence has been shaken as never before. Many people opined from Kolkata that they failed to understand why they had been stopped from coming out of home and many of them in adolescence have been suffering from policefobia (fearing man in police uniform). It seems a combination of Corona-confusion-coercion. Apart from being home-locked, most of the people have become brain-locked and lip-locked also. Many had faith in Gomutra-cure and they bought bottles of Gomutra at Rs. 250 per bottle in North 24 Parganas in West Bengal in April 2020 in order to get cured – Gomutra was in gossip mill as a cure. People were/are in panic – to say the least. They have been state-silenced and they have learnt to live or die in silence. Most of them apparently accepted living biological life some more years post-Corona is the maximum they may expect from the Almighty.   

The Monopolist pledged that Coronil would be given cost-free to those living below the poverty line. If the Monopolist can rescue them, where is the problem? This is also a practice that I found mobile hawkers in running compartments of mobile trains on Kolkata-Howrah railway tracks practicing – first distributing the product-to-be-sold cost-free, then start selling at a price. However, the Monopolist must have the BPL list for execution of his benevolence. That list is credible if it comes from the formal state. This means there has to be cooperation between the formal state and the informal or parallel state.

But a little problem has cropped up not from the innocent people but from the formal Constitutional state. People had never been problems in Bharat. People think they send their representatives to the apex decision-making bodies that solve the problems that humanity faces. The AYUSH Minister opined that the Monopolist’s Covid-19 drug was a good thing “but’’ there were rules. Here came the point – rules. Rules belong to the formal state for the rules come in keeping with the Constitution of India. The Ayush Ministry allegedly opined that the Uttarakhand government gave clearance and licensing for the production of the medicine.  The Ayush Minister allegedly opined that it was good that the Monopolist gave a new medicine to the country. Necessity is the mother of invention. The Ministry, however, took a step of caution. It informed the Monopolist that such advertisements of drugs including Ayurvedic medicines are regulated under the provisions of Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 and directives issued by the Government of India in the wake of COVID outbreak, 2019/2020. The Monopolist has been asked to provide details of the name and composition of the medicines being claimed for COVID treatment, places where the research study was conducted for COVID-19, protocol, sample size, Institutional Ethics Committee clearance, CTRI registration and results from data of the study and "stop advertising/publicising such claims till the issue is duly examined.

The Uttarakhand state licensing authority has also been asked by the competent authority in the Government of India to provide copies of the license and product approval details for Coronil, as reported.  There came parallel information on 24th June 2020 through electronic media that the Uttarakhand government was going to issue a notice to the Monopolist for launching a drug claiming to be a cure for corona virus when it had only applied for an immunity booster against cough and fever.

The first person that gets punished works at the bottom of the institutional hierarchy. Hence the licensing officer from the Uttarakhand government's Ayurved department did not make any delay in making it public that the Monopolist’s licensing application had no mention of corona virus contrary to the claim of the Monopolist. It might have been a slip of the pen or keyboard. Meanwhile, Maharashtra state government decided not to allow the sale of 'spurious' medicines in the state for Corona-cure.

Power matters. So does rent-seeking. In case the Monopolist can walk on the corridor of power, nothing is impossible. The common people are eagerly waiting to get the panacea – Corona-free freedom. Common people do not mind if it comes from the formal state or the informal state. Corona-death is also looking undignified. So, what is wrong if common people imagine to get rid of indignity – in life and in death?  

Bhaskar Majumder, Professor of Economics, G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad - 211019

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Jun 28, 2020

Prof. Bhaskar Majumder

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