In what has become an annual mela-like event, thousands of people will line up in the Nampally Exhibition Grounds on June 8 and 9 to receive the "Fish Prasadam" distributed annually by the Bathini Goud family.
The practice, however, has come under severe objection from many rationalists and sceptics, including eminent scientists like PM Bhargava.
The Goud family, which claims to have been administering the prasadam since 1845, gives it free of cost to thousands that line up with the belief that it cures asthma and other ailments.
"This is scientific. People have taken our samples to labs in Japan, Germany and got them tested. The concept is that when live fish moves, wagging its tail and fins through the throat, it clears all congestion. Thus, providing cure to asthma," Harinath Goud, one of the elders of the family, told News18.
Speaking to The News Minute, Bhargava, founder of the Centre of Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), said that the practice made no sense.
"It is a joke. Looking at the condition of certain self-proclaimed god-men and god-women in the country, it is no surprise to me that the event occurs year after year," he said.
"There are so many questions that the family leaves unanswered. Why does the fish have to be given on that particular day? What is so special about the day? Why is it that particular fish?" he asks.
He goes on to say "According to standard practices in India and all over the world, any 'medicine' must clearly state all its contents, but yet the family does not want to reveal their so-called 'secret' citing pharmaceutical greed and continues to peddle it under the label of a 'prasadam' now."
In January this year, organiser Bathini Harinath Goud was handed out a week-long simple imprisonment for violating court conditions in 2013 like displaying of a board mentioning that it was prasadam and not medicine.
This is not the first time that the practice is being questioned, and the Bathini Goud family has reacted to criticism strongly and has cited several tests in the past, claiming that the fish contains no harmful ingredients.
Bhargava, who is a molecular biologist, says there is nothing scientific about the 'prasadam' and "it makes no sense from any scientific point of view."
The TRS government, continuing with the practice of its predecessors, has made extensive arrangements for the event, assigning hundreds of municipal workers and policemen to monitor the event.
"The government is at fault and should stop this," says Bhargava, a long-time advocate of separating state and religion.
"There is no need for the government to provide the facilities for the event. Someone should take them to court, but even there, the judges will probably side with the practice," he adds.
Bhargava credits efforts by rationalist organisations for helping to create awareness against the event, and limit the numbers of people that throng the event. "Organizations like the 'Jana Vignana Vedika' have done a great job in creating awareness and making sure that the number drops every year," Bhargava adds.
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