The BJP government in Haryana has decided to give the status of cabinet minister to yoga guru Ramdev though this does not mean he will have any official duties or responsibilities.
The government's decision was announced on Monday by education minister Ram Bilas Sharma, who said the state would also honour Ramdev at a function at Indradhanush Auditorium in Panchkula on April 21.
Ramdev was earlier made the state's brand ambassador to promote yoga and ayurveda.
Official sources said those granted "status equivalent to cabinet minister" were not entitled to salary and allowances payable to a legislator sworn in as a cabinet minister. They are, however, entitled to protocol, including a security escort and state guest status at official rest houses.
These same measures will apply to Ramdev, who will not have any official duties, the sources said.
The Haryana assembly witnessed uproarious scenes last month after Ramdev was named brand ambassador. The BJP government was attacked by the opposition Congress for allegedly going out of its way to please the yoga guru.
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh criticised the state government's decision to give Ramdev the rank of cabinet minister and referred to the guru as a "thug".
"Couldn't the Haryana government find a bigger thug for cabinet status? Once a thug, always a thug. A thug is a thug is a thug," said Singh.
Indian National Lok Dal state president Ashok Arora refused to comment on the issue.
Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said there was no need to make an issue of the decision. "We have given him (Ramdev) the responsibility as an ambassador of yoga," he said.
Education minister Sharma has constituted the Guidance Board and Education Advisory Committee to include yoga and moral education in Haryana's school curriculum. He said Dinanath Batra, educationist and general secretary of Vidya Bharati, the school network run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had been named the panel's patron, and Bhagavad Gita scholar Swami Gyananand and Gurukul Pataudi Acharya Dharam Dev would be its members.
The Haryana government has already made yoga compulsory in schools. It plans to build 'yogshalas' in all towns and villages under Ramdev's guidance and will send physical education teachers for training in yoga to the guru's Patanjali Yogpeeth in Haridwar. The government also plans to train Anganwari workers to teach yoga to children.
Refresher courses will also be organised for 550 doctors of the state's Ayush department at the Patanjali Yogpeeth. Ramdev is also being roped in to help the government develop an "herbal forest" to grow ayurvedic plants.