Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not perform yoga at Rajpath on June 21, International Yoga Day. But bureaucrats are expected to be at their flexible best, lest they thwart the government’s bid to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.
All government officials above the rank of under secretary have been issued circulars by their respective ministries, asking them to attend yoga classes in the run-up to the event.
“The cabinet secretary has mentioned that if officials turn up without practise and their performance is not up to the mark, we run the risk of the record claim in the Guinness Book of World Records being affected,” reads the circular.
The officials have been told that classes are being held at the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga (MDNIY), which falls under the ministry of AYUSH. The 19-day course is meant to teach bureaucrats the asanas that will be part of the ‘common yoga protocol’ on the big day.
The institute is busy training four batches of bureaucrats on weekdays and three batches on weekends.
Apart from yoga classes, bureaucrats have also been asked to practise using an instruction booklet and a DVD. Officials in the AYUSH department said a formal application has already been sent to Guinness.
Meanwhile, with some religious communities criticising the government for trying to make the event compulsory, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj clarified Tuesday: “We are inviting everybody but it is not mandatory for anybody. We will not foist it on anybody.”
The government is also mindful that not all its officials are in great shape. “The protocol was drawn up by a panel in consultation with yoga gurus. Surya namaskar was never a part of it because it is not safe for people with pre-existing conditions like spondylitis. It will not be performed at the government functions, but in schools, institutes and parks, people can perform any exercises they are comfortable with,” Swaraj said. Incidentally, Muslim organisations, including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, had protested against inclusion of surya namaskar in the protocol.
Asanas that are a part of the protocol include tadasana, pada hastasana, ardha chakrasana, ardha ustrasana, sasankasana and salabhasana. The event will start at 7 am and last 35 minutes. Modi will address the 45,000-strong gathering, but will not perform yoga, Swaraj said.
“Yoga is not about any religion.The resolution for observing International Day for Yoga was supported by 177 countries. Of these, 47 are Islamic nations. In fact, we did not specify a time for observing yoga day because of their request. It is the month of Ramzan and they wanted to do the exercises after Roza Iftar. We agreed to their request,” Swaraj said.
The MEA will organise yoga day celebrations in 192 nations. Swaraj also admitted that Pakistan had refused visa to a yoga trainer who was meant to travel to the country for yoga day.