There is no competition with Anna Hazare: Baba Ramdev

Walk The Talk
In this Walk the Talk with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV's 24/7 yoga guru Baba Ramdev talks about his crusade against corruption, getting black money back and capital punishment for corrupt officials.

My guest today is the rockstar of yoga, Baba Ramdev. Only you could have got me up this early. You wake up very early—3 o'clock in the morning?

I wake up at 3 a.m. and sleep by 10 in the night. On an average, I sleep for 4-5 hours. My aim is to use my time, strength, knowledge and the wealth that crores of people have given me, for the nation.

But people are suspicious—no one knows how much wealth you have gathered. Digivijay Singh says you don't give the details of it to anyone.

About 10 crore people took part in my programmes and they helped me. They are not dishonest people. Some are poor, some are middle-class people. What these ten crore people gave me, I used it to help another hundred crore people. I don't need a certificate from anyone.

But how much wealth do you have at present?

From the time my Trust was set up in 1995 to now, our turnover has been around Rs 1,100 crore. What we have been able to do with this money, the government has not been able to do with lakhs of crores of rupees. We have succeeded in curing crores of people.

It's a good investment.

It's not investment, it's seva. Investment is done to benefit a few people or a company. I am doing seva. It is not for the benefit of one person, but for the benefit of all. Today, I still sleep on the floor. At 11 in the morning and at 7 in the evening, I eat a small meal. I don't eat any foodgrain. I just have a glass of milk and some green vegetables and seasonal fruits.

Swamiji, tell us about your childhood.

I was born in a small village of Haryana in Mahendragarh district. My parents were illiterate farmers. I too have done farming, from sowing to harvesting the crops, from lifting cowdung—everything that an aam aadmi of Hindustan does.

We have heard that you overcame some disease.

When I was a child, I was ill. My left side was paralysed. I had boils on my legs and I couldn't walk. Since I read Rishi Dayanand and autobiographies of many great people, my life changed.

And you started yoga.

I learnt yoga when I was nine. But I never thought I will become so popular one day. I am just a fakir.

But you are a performer.

I don't know what a performer is. Till a few years ago, I did not know that crores of people would trust me. I never believed that so many people would love me. Now I know they do. Hundred of crores of people have reposed their faith in me and I'll try not to ever break that trust.

Since crores of people have faith in you, why don't you contest elections, come to power and bring out the reforms that you want?

Politics is not everything in life. There are two ways to bring change. One is satygraha, which I have chosen, the second is to come to power and bring in changes. In a democracy, the biggest power is people's power. If I have the support of the masses, then I can bring in changes even without coming to power.

But in politics, the trust of the people is evaluated through votes.

My dream is not to become the Prime Minister. My dream is that corruption should end in my country. This corrupt political system has to go. According to my calculation, around Rs 400 lakh crore black money is stashed outside the country. Our country should get the money back. This is no small amount.

Rs 400 lakh crore is a huge amount. Even the country's GDP is not that much.

It's not just my opinion, it's also the opinion of those who study the economy. Our country's economy is around Rs 69 lakh crore and our black (money) economy is much bigger that our white (money) economy.

But swamiji, people also laugh at your claims.

See, whenever people adopt the path of truth, others call them mad. At least people are not calling me mad. And what I'm saying will be proved right. You'll see in the coming days that people who have committed these sins and have betrayed the nation will be exposed. Till now, people felt corruption will not end, black money will not be brought back. But I'm telling you black money will be brought back. You'll see a time-bound, result-oriented action in this direction.

You also say that currency notes of Rs 100, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 should be banned.

Yes, this is also an issue. On black money, I have raised some issues and the government has said they agree with me. First, the government should declare black money stashed offshore as a national asset. Second, the money deposited illegally outside should be considered a crime against the nation and not just a civil offence. This will put fear in people's minds. To bring back the black money, the government should ratify the UN convention.

Tell me about the currency note issue.

What we want is that black money should be brought back by 'physical and technical investigation'. I am of the opinion that we should withdraw big currency notes. Those who have clean money will get their money back in smaller denominations, and those who have black money, they will not deposit it at all. So we can print notes of smaller denominations of that amount.

I have seen this in Afghanistan at one time when people used to carry suitcases full of money. Anarth ho jayega desh mein. So you want only notes of Rs 10 and Rs 50 in the country?

The nation's work can be done with 50 rupee notes. There are 84 crore people in this country who earn Rs 20 daily and those who have more money, they use credit cards, ATM cards, cheques and drafts.

So, what did the government say on scrapping the higher currency notes?

I don't want to comment on this because the government is looking into it seriously. I spoke to the PM on this issue. See, the issue is not about big notes, it's about black money. We don't have problem with the notes. It's the generation of black money through the movement of cash. Big notes are easily transported and thus they are used for bribing people, evading tax.

I read the letter in which you wrote that if this (black money is brought back), then one rupee would be equal to 50 dollars.

When the black money is brought back, our economy will be so huge, our currency will be so strong that our one rupee will be equal to 50 dollars. It will take some time but it will happen.

How long will it take?

You wait till 2020. There will be such a huge change in this country. We can't deny the fact that the US today has an external debt of Rs 647 lakh crore, UK 404, Germany 211. Spain, Luxembourg, Norway, Italy all have external debt of lakhs of crore of rupees. This is all running on black money.

Are you in agreement with Anna Hazare's movement for the Lokpal Bill?

I'm in complete agreement that a competent Lokpal has to be instituted. The important thing is that there should be a mechanism to recover the money from the person who has carried out the loot. Economic offence is a big offence. According to The Global Hunger Report, every year in our country, 70 lakh people die of hunger and malnutrition. Who is responsible for this? This is not a small thing. I said that in the Lokpal Bill, either life imprisonment or death penalty should be given to those who commit economic offences.

In China, hundreds of people are given death sentences on corruption charges and as per Transparency International, China is more corrupt than India. Goli maarne se bhrashtachaar khatam nahin hota hai (Corruption doesn't end by killing a person).

China has a very different problem. It has a different setup. The law has to be very strong so that when people see someone getting the death penalty, they won't think of committing such an act.

If you are in such agreement with Anna Hazare, then why are you not sitting with him on a hunger strike? Why are you sitting separately?

Lokpal is one way to stop corruption but black money is a separate issue. In all my talks with the government, I have focused on how to bring black money back to the country and how to change the political system that generates black money. The education system too needs to be changed. Those who committed these financial crimes are all well educated people. Educated people have committed these crimes because in our education, spiritual, moral and cultural values have been eliminated.

So how can you change the education system?

The education system has to assimilate moral, spiritual and cultural values. Till it is not changed, we will not be able to shape people's characters. In the same way we have to bring changes in the Land Acquisition Bill, GM crops...

So are you competing with Anna Hazare?

We supported him and we are now taking the movement forward. Anna Hazare works in Maharashtra. So there is no competition between us. Our movement started with the Lokpal issue, but it does not end there. I said this at Jantar Mantar too.

Are you in complete agreement with the committee that has been formed or do you want your own nominee?

There is no question of nominee at all. I never said I want to be a part of the committee. This is not the issue. The issue is black money, corruption, an honest political system.

What will happen after June 4 in this country (Ramdev has announced he will go on a fast-unto-death from June 4 to demand black money stashed abroad be brought back)?

There has been an agreement with the government on some issues. The government has promised to work in a time-bound and credible manner.

Do you consider the Prime Minister honest?

Yes, I have always said that. The government seems to be taking these issues very seriously. Otherwise why would they talk to me? I told Pranab Mukherjee this and he agreed that officers and people holding constitutional posts have many rights but the common people too should have some rights. If someone goes to an office for some work, his work should be completed within a given time frame—seven days, 15 days or a month. If the work is not completed within the time-frame, then a penalty of Rs 250 should be charged on the officer for each lapsed day. That will be deducted from his salary. If the officer continues to repeat such delays, he should be suspended. I gave this suggestion and he said they will try to fully implement it. So, a big change will be coming.

So, your talks with the government are progressing?

There is a lot of progress. The June 4 satyagraha will bring two things to the country. First, black money will start coming in and a mechanism will be in place so that in future, no such black money is generated.

So your movement will be much bigger than Anna Hazare's?

It doesn't matter whether Anna Hazare or Baba Ramdev is bigger. The country is bigger.

But why did you choose a different platform and not Anna Hazare's?

Anna Hazare and my agenda is not different but the issues are different. Therefore, I had to raise the issue separately. The issue first was of the Lokpal, now it is black money and reforms in the system.

What is your relationship with the RSS and what do you think of it?

Till the country's law and justice system doesn't consider anyone a deshdrohi (traitor) or an apradhi (culprit), I will speak to that person or organisation. But the moment the country's legal system says the person is a criminal, I will not talk to him.

You have defended the RSS on many platforms, even on Anna Hazare's platform. You said, 'Sangh ke virduh koi kuch nahin bolega (nobody will say anything against the sangh)'.

When someone said the Sangh is a terrorist outfit, I said that from the first sarsanghchalak to the present sarsanghchalak, I have not seen anyone who is involved in any terror activity.

But they have been against the minorities, particularly against Muslims.

You can ask these questions to them. I'm not their spokesperson.

Some people say that when the popularity of Anna Hazare increased, you jumped on to the stage. Aapne kaha, main bhi hoon.

Whatever I have done in my life, I have done in front of everyone. I have not done anything in secret. From November 14 to February 27, we brought Anna Hazare to various platforms in North India. He is still with us.

But in North India, you have the support.

What I'm saying is that we brought him to north India because there is no competition between us. And he is still standing with us. On November 14, we assembled at Jantar Mantar. Ninety-nine per cent of the people there were our workers. Today in this country, a troop of 10 crore people are directly connected with me. They are connected not because of any religious leaning but because I have made them aware of the reality. I have been fighting against this corruption for the last five years. I have come here after walking one lakh kilometres. Ramdev has not dropped suddenly from the sky. He lives on the ground and has worked his way up from the grassroots level. From where do these people churn out such stories about a collision with Anna Hazare?

Not collision but competition.

There is no competition, there is no collision. These are two complementary movements.

This is not a single movement?

Ramdev and Anna Hazare are two persons but the country is one and we are both working for the country. The country is big and it needs to be saved. Corruption has to be weeded out.

The PM is there. He is also working for the country. He is also an honest person.

Yes, that's why I never criticised him. I want a political system to be formed in the country that is a responsible one to which those who have committed crimes are answerable. This is our political view.

Swamiji, at one point you formed a party.

I never got any party registered.

But you announced it. It seems that you got nervous.

I never formed a party and I am not forming one. We are building the country. First, I made my countrymen healthy, now I'll make them richer. A rich country is a good thing.

This is what we are waiting for swamiji, the day when one rupee will be equal to 50 dollars.

That day we'll say with pride that our people will not go to Canada or the UK for a job, they'll come here. We are waiting for the day when people from other countries will say that to earn money, we have to go to India.

Transcribed by Priyanka Sengupta
For full text, visit www.indianexpress.com

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