India gets a “minister” for yoga, but it’s way more complicated than that

The easy version of this story is just this: India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has shaken up his cabinet and elevating to it a position dedicated to both yoga and ayurveda. Here’s a pretty good rundown:

The government has set up a ministry to promote alternative therapies such as yoga and traditional ayurveda medicine, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on a mission to raise awareness and the appeal of home-grown health treatments.

Modi has repeatedly called for greater use of India’s health remedies and exercises, part of a push to promote traditional learning. During his first address at the United Nations in September, he encouraged more people to take up yoga and called for an International Yoga Day.

“This is our system and it has not received enough prominence. We will take it to the masses,” said Shripad Naik, who took charge of the ministry on Tuesday.

Previously, these topics fell under the purview of the health minister. (If you want to get technical, here’s a further rundown: “Among the portfolios designated was that of Aayush, whose minister will be charged with promoting the traditional medicines and practices of Ayurveda, yoga, naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and homeopathy. “)

Sounds good, right? Well, as the headline says, it’s a bit more complicated than that:

Attempted murder, waging war on the state, criminal intimidation and fraud are some of the charges on the rap sheets of ministers Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appointed to his cabinet, jarring with his pledge to clean up politics.

Seven of 21 new ministers appointed on Sunday face prosecution, taking the total in the 66-member cabinet to almost one third, a higher proportion than before the weekend expansion.

At least five people in the cabinet have been charged with serious offences such as rape and rioting. But Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said any suggestions there were criminals in the cabinet were “completely baseless”.

“These are cases arising out of criminal accusations, not cases out of a crime,” Jaitley said, adding that Modi had personally vetted the new ministers.

Beyond those seemingly cut-and-dry issues, there’s also questions about whether this expansion — with its focus on such things as yoga — is really just part of a nationalist step-up by Modi, which brings with it a whole ton of issues including, but not limited to, internal relations between Hindus and Muslims; relations with Pakistan; and growing relations with nationalists in Japan.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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