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Discriminated in the Land of its Origin: Being Vocal About Uniquely Local Ayurveda

Dear Pradhan Mantri ji,      

The new mantra offered by you: “Be Vocal about Local” is a carry forward of Mahatma Gandhi’s insistence on promoting ‘Swadeshi’. I join the millions of Indians who have responded to this call enthusiastically.

After hearing your August 15 speech from the ramparts of Red Fort, I feel like sharing some good news with you with regard to the “Triumph of the Local”. Given how alert you are, it may not come as a surprise to you. But since you made no mention of this in your speech, I take the liberty of drawing your attention to it.

It should be a matter of great pride for us that during the Corona pandemic, India’s local wisdom triumphed over all else in helping millions stay protected from the virus, including those who cannot possibly practice “social distance” because they live in very cramped and overcrowded neighbourhoods in tiny houses.

The media in India has focussed obsessively on the rising graph of Corona infected and the numbers who died. However, for a population size of 130 Crore, this number constitutes a small percentage. The millions who remained protected did so on the strength of local wisdom.

Mortality rate from Corona in India is very low in comparison to global figures.
India has registered one of the lowest deaths per million at 30 as compared to the global average of 91 deaths per million and at 1.94% we have one of the lowest fatality rate for Chinese Corona Virus.

Comparative Figures of Corona Victims as on August 15

Number of infected in India: 2.53 Million + 64553 
Recovered: 1.81 Million
Deaths: 49,036 + 1,007

Number of infected Worldwide: 21.2 Million + 2,91,000
Recovered: 13.3 Million
Deaths: 7,65,000 + 6,769

The low mortality rate due to Covid in India is especially remarkable considering the abysmally poor public health care system in India as compared to western countries or even Thailand, Srilanka or Malaysia. Therefore, very little credit for this goes to the government.

Stronger Immune Systems of Desi Indians Act as Protective Shield: The most important reason for far fewer Corona deaths in India is the relatively stronger immune system of the majority in India who are still wedded to our desi lifestyle and have refused to be swept away by the western lifestyles and faddish food habits. The following factors came to our rescue:

  • Most Indians eat freshly cooked food three times a day; Most of us buy fresh vegetables and fruits every day. This makes Indian home cooked food far healthier than restaurant cooked food or processed and canned food that people in western countries resort to almost as a daily routine. Thanks to Corona, even those who had taken to eating out as a fashion statement have also curbed that habit;
  • A large percentage of Indians (excluding Muslims and Christians) are vegetarian. This too contributes to better health and reduces the chances of catching diseases transmitted by animal flesh consumed as food, as happened with Corona, Swine Flu and other epidemics. In villages, even when people consume meat, they slaughter the animal, chicken or duck themselves and consume fresh meat with full assurance that the animal or the bird were healthy;
  • Each one of the spices used in our daily cooking is a potent medicinal herb. Turmeric, ginger, sweet neem used as curry patta in various dishes, drum sticks, coriander, cumin seeds, garlic, ajwain, cinnamon, kesar, heeng, tulsi, TejPatta and several other spices we use in daily cooking, all have powerful medicinal value and health benefits. No other cuisine in the world uses so many beneficial medicinal herbs  as part of routine cooking.The term used for Indian spices in Ayurved is aushadhi.
  • Add to it the use of Aamla, Neem plus growing use of Giloy and Tulsi along with wonder herb called ginger for making herbal tea (desi word is kaadha) has played a major role in protecting Indians from the pandemic. Apart from curing various ailments, all these herbs contribute in building strong immunity.
  • Infact, each Indian kitchen is a small Vaidyashala. In most households, 90% of routine illnesses are cured by kitchen remedies. These are endorsed by all Ayurveda practitioners since these bounties of nature have been an integral part of Ayurvedic cures.

Thanks to Macaulay contrived education system and consequent disoriented upbringing, the younger generation had moved away from that wisdom. But Baba Ramdev came alike a saviour and created a mass movement to revive that precious heritage. It is no coincidence that the preventive measures recommended by AYUSH Ministry included herbal concoctions which our parents and grandparents gave us routinely to tackle routine ailments. During my childhood years, we hardly ever needed to visit doctors because my parents had effective remedies coming out of our humble kitchen.

The Gurus that Led Resurgence of India’s Local Wisdom: Baba Ramdev is neither the first nor the last to have revived our traditional native wisdom. After the British succeeded in downgrading and almost killing traditional knowledge systems, a whole line of spiritual gurus starting with Swami Vivekanand, Shri Aurobindo, Maharshi ParamahansaYogananda, B.K.S Iyengar, Sri Sri Ravishankar and many others have worked for the resurgence of our “local wisdom”. That is how another unique heritage of India, namely Yog, which includes Pranayam and Dhyaan (meditation) - came to sweep the whole world. Today it is widely acknowledged as the most effective means of maintaining physical, intellectual and emotional health as well as combating even chronic illnesses.

It can be easily established through careful surveys that those who run to allopathic doctors for every little ailment are more likely to be falling ill because each and every allopathic medicine compromises your immunity. It can also be easily established that those who have integrated Yog in their life, are far less prone to infections and viruses.

Humbling of Western Medical Establishment: Corona has humbled the western medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies that have come to dominate health care systems of the entire world. They arrogantly believe that they have a pill for every ill, that they can find a cure for every possible physical ailment by inventing ever new vaccines, antibiotics and chemical compounds.

Each new virus, bacterial strain and pandemic exposes their hollowness but they don’t stop because there is big money to be made in “inventing” new and often useless and harmful vaccines. 

In my living memory, the allopathic medical establishment had spread the same kind of panic for HIV & AIDS. Since then billions of dollars have been in finding a magical vaccine to cure it. For long years, AIDS & HIV came to dominate the health care programs in most countries of the world. Some kind of “cures” have been supposedly found to combat the disease. And yet 35 million lives have been lost to this disease. In 2018 alone, 770,000 people died of HIV-related illnesses worldwide. According to UNAIDS data 2018, 69,000 AIDS related deaths took place in India in 2017.

This clearly indicates that the search for a magical allopathic cure for HIV hasn’t really materialized. But today, there is hardly any talk of this continuing epidemic. People are back to life as usual, including sexual promiscuity and indiscriminate resort to paid sex with multiple partners even though irresponsible sex has been confirmed to be the main cause of this disease. Corona vaccine hunt may prove to be another money guzzling enterprise as was the HIV vaccine without any real benefits.

The Inherent Dangers of Allopathic Medicine: The colossal number of deaths caused every year due to “Adverse Drug Reactions (ADR)” deaths speaks volumes:

Adverse Drug Reaction Deaths Per Year: 50,450 in India & 140,000 in USA

And yet, the glamour and high status attached to the American medical system is forcing large parts of the world to emulate the American madness with its unethical, greed-motivated medical system.

Deaths Due to Allopathic Treatments Exceed Corona Deaths:

  • Number of iatrogenic deaths (induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures) in the US every year: 783,936.
  • Number of US hospital patients who experience adverse drug reactions (ADRs) due to prescribed medications each year: 2.2 million
  • Unnecessary antibiotics prescribed annually for viral infections in the US: 20 million per year.
  • The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually in the US: 7.5 million
  • Persons made to undergo unnecessary hospitalization in the US per year: 8.9 million
  • Unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually in the US: 7.5 million
  • Medical negligence deaths: Nearly 50,00,000 in India; 400,000 in US; 98,000 in UK

The biggest victory for our local wisdom as enshrined in Ayurveda which had permeated every kitchen in every home in the form of spices doubling as herbal cures – is the fact that almost every allopathic doctor in India has taken to consuming herbal brews recommended by AYUSH Ministry, knowing well that these kaadhas are nothing more than what their parents and grandparents used for curing routine ailments.

What is more, every allopathic doctor is today petrified lest he/she needs to be admitted to a modern day hospital (of the kind they themselves work in) because the chances of catching deadly infections in hospitals practicing western allopathic medicine are much higher than staying at home or even walking through crowded markets. Allopathic doctors have had to put more faith in turmeric boiled milk than in the vast array of antibiotics or steroids they routinely dispense to their patients. Why just in India, Turmeric-au-lait or Haldi Milk is selling in the most fashionable coffee shops in the US and Europe as a fashionable cure-all.

Continuing Marginalization of Yog and Ayurveda: Sadly, despite your personal commitment to Yog and Ayurveda, Prime Minister ji, the Government Of India is spending a miniscule fraction of money on research and promotion of Ayurveda and Yog despite their stellar track record. The Indian government is not investing adequately in Ayurveda research and giving due space to this holistic health care system or even training competent Yog teachers. Government of India spends more money on the salaries of PT teachers in schools than on providing facilities for training of Yoga masters. Consequently, most Yog instructors do few months of training in this or that poorly run ashram or teaching shop before they start imparting their caricature version of Yoga to others. Its far easier to find well trained instructors in Europe or America than in India.

The situation is worse with Ayurveda.For instance, it took months of pleading before the health establishment in India, dominated as it is by allopathic doctors, allowed ayurvedic institutes to treat Corona patients.

Prime Minister ji, there is no doubt that your government has taken a noticeable step forward by creating the AYUSH Ministry, but AYUSH is subservient to the Medical Council of India. The “Health Ministry” is all about allopathic medicine. It is committed to setting up poor copies of western hospitals. Even primary health centres run by various state governments or mohalla clinics set up by Delhi government provide only or mainly allopathic treatments.

Well trained good Vaidyas are much harder to find in the janmabhoomi of Ayurveda than allopathic doctors which are available dime a dozen. The discrimination meted out to Ayurveda is glaring and rankles. Budget allocations speak volumes:

The annual budget of Health Ministry of Health of Central Government for the year 2020-21 is Rs 65000 Crores. Since health is a state subject, this does not include the amount being spent by 28 state governments and eight Union Territory (UT) governments. 

For instance, the health budget of Maharashtra State government is Rs 17288 crores and that of Andhra state government is Rs 11673 crores. 

And what does AYUSH Ministry get in comparison? A mere Rs 2122 crores.

Most State governments follow the Central government and allow only token amounts to Ayurvedic health care.

No surprise then that only those who fail to get admission into MBBS – i.e. allopathic medicine colleges – join the Ayurvedic colleges which neither carry the prestige associated with MBBS colleges nor are adequately equipped for research and quality teaching. Very few students, or even teachers of Ayurvedic colleges, are grounded in Sanskrit, without which you cannot access original texts of Ayurveda.

The Health Ministry dominates decisions regarding health care while the AYUSH Ministry is treated as a side show. It has very little autonomy and much less importance.

The step treatment meted out to Ayurveda would become obvious if the “Ministry of Health” were to be appropriately named as “Ministry of Western Allopathic Medicine”. The disproportional sarkari patronage given to western allopathic medicine has given it the status of mainstream medicine while Ayurveda and AYUSH Ministry are treated as “alternative” systems that remain at the margins and tolerated so long as they stay within the Lakshman Rekha drawn by the allopathic establishment represented by the Medical Council of India and the (Allopathic) Health Ministry.

This came out starkly during the Corona pandemic. Ayurvedic centres including the All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA) established by AYUSH Ministry had to beg and plead with the Health Ministry and the PMO to be allowed to treat Corona patients. The (Allopathic) Medical Council of India gave this permission very reluctantly and on a modest scale. And yet the results have been very promising as comes out in the interview with the Director of AIIA, Dr Tanuja Nesari (watch this interview at the given link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SactEchNyHM&t=2362s)

Worse still, when Baba Ramdev who has played a stellar role in reviving Ayurveda on a scale far bigger than attempted by the AYUSH Ministry, announced that his research lab at Patanjali had found an effective cure for Corona, after clinical trials – all hell broke loose.He was publicly humiliated and treated as a quack who had no business to encroach on the sacred domain of the Medical Council in India (Allopathic). But all kinds of wild experiments were done by allopathic hospitals, including plasma therapy and indiscriminate use of steroids, to treat corona patients. None dare ask them, where are the clinical trials to back these remedies?

Dear Prime Minister, in your speech of August 15, you too proudly mentioned “only allopathic vaccines” being developed under government care to treat Corona. There was no mention of establishing the veracity of Ayurvedic cures being claimed by Baba Ramdev and other prominent Vaidyas.

You did not come to the defence of Ayurveda when it was being publicly humiliated. It is pertinent to ask, why should millennia old Ayurveda have to prove its efficacy through protocols established by western medicine which is barely 150 years old? Why can’t the ancient science of Ayurveda establish its own protocols? Western pharmaceutical companies try their new fund vaccines and medicines by torturing hapless animals to test out adverse reactions since none of their chemicals/vaccines come without adverse effects. It is also well known that pharmaceutical companies indulge in all manners of frauds and sell fake claims by bribing the medical fraternity, including the mighty WHO.

But Ayurvedic prescriptions rarely produce adverse reactions unless prepared and dispensed by quacks. By all means subject Ayurveda to stringent tests but the protocols must be established by renowned Vaidyas, not by Harvard Medical School.

Need to Discard Macaulay Devised Education: Dear Pradhan Mantri ji, “Be Vocal for Local” requires a thorough rehaul of our Macaulayite education and our colonial world view. In the coming years and decades, Ayurveda will be accepted as the future of health care all over the world. Pharmaceutical companies from all over the world are quietly carrying out research in Ayurvedic cures.They even tried to patent Haldi and Neem. Some of our scientists caught the mischief well in time and challenged the patent. But the Government Of India has not yet worked out any system of preserving and patenting this entire body of our local ancient wisdom.

Whether India leads in this or allows pharma companies of the West to steal our ancient knowledge in this field depends on whether the Government allows the allopathic system with all its negative aspects to dominate our health care system.

Pradhan Mantri ji, it is time that the Government of India takes firm steps to redress the grievous injustice done to the “local” ancient wisdom in a very “vocal” manner by giving the pride of place to Ayurveda in the healthcare policies of the Government of India.

To begin with, the following 4 steps would help:

  • Please free the AYUSH Ministry from the clutches of (Allopathic) Medical Council of India. Let Ayurveda have its own ‘Ayurvedic Medical Council of India’. How can you allow doctors trained in western allopathic medicine to sit in judgment over the millennia old Ayurvedic wisdom?
  • Rename ‘Medical Council of India’ as ‘Allopathic Medical Council of India’.
  • Please give the AYUSH Ministry a budget at par with Ministry of Health (Allopathic).
  • Rename ‘All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)’ as ‘All India Institute of Allopathic Medical Sciences’. This will put it at par with All India Institute of Ayurveda.

 

 

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Madhu Purnima Kishwar

The author is National Professor, ICSSR & Founder Editor MANUSHI