Alternative lifestyle has been described as a “cult” by a number of experts.
The movement has gained traction as a way of coping with stress, but critics say it has become a new way of life for many people who find themselves in poverty.
But it has also been used to mask the real problems faced by many people in India, according to an expert panel.
A panel of experts from several universities in the United States, the UK and the Netherlands has called for the government to introduce a ban on alternative lifestyles.
The panel’s report called for restrictions to be imposed on the practice of alternative lifestyles and said the government should impose a licensing scheme for such activities.
The group said the activities should be closely monitored by government and the private sector.
“Alternative lifestyles are a growing phenomenon in India.
The fact that this is an emerging form of lifestyle is a major indicator of its potential,” the panel’s chairman, Prof Ramesh Jain, said in a statement.”
This is because it does not fit the traditional model of poverty and dependence and therefore has the potential to contribute to social welfare and sustainable development.”
The panel said that a ban is needed to protect public health, the environment and the rights of the people.
It called on India’s government to “ensure that such practices are closely monitored and regulated by appropriate authorities, and to take a strong stance against any form of exploitation and abuse of this new form of activity”.
The panel was commissioned by the National Association of Alternative Life Agencies (NALA) in response to the increasing number of suicides, including in remote areas, in India where people are more likely to be forced to work for little or no pay.
Dr Suresh Chatterjee, a professor of clinical psychology at Harvard University, said alternative lifestyles, which are often associated with a range of harmful practices, often serve to conceal a deeper crisis.
“The alternative lifestyle has become part of the cultural fabric of India, a very complex construct that often involves the exclusion of a range and diversity of people and communities, and is often linked to the exclusionary attitudes that characterize India,” Dr Chatterbee said.
“I think it is important that this particular form of life be treated as a form of alternative lifestyle, and that the people involved be recognised for the way in which they have worked to promote this alternative lifestyle.”
Dr Chatteree also called on the government not to impose any type of licensing regime for alternative lifestyles that would restrict people’s freedom of choice.
“There needs to be more regulation of the activities that alternative lifestyles promote, including the licensing of alternative venues and activities,” he said.
India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests said in its annual report that the country has the second highest number of extreme poverty in the world, behind only South Africa.
Dr Chaterjee said the “unhealthy lifestyles” promoted by alternative lifestyles should be recognised as a legitimate form of self-care.
“It is important for the governments of India to act in this direction, not only because it can help to bring down extreme poverty but because the government can take an active role in improving the quality of life in India,” he added.