Globalisation Of Indian Schools Of Medicine Is Our Goal: Shripad Naik
n an interview with BW Businessworld’s Suman K. Jha, he explains how he plans to popularize Indian forms of medicine, and take them to the world
Union Ayush Minister Shripad Naik had humble beginnings. Having begun as a village sarpanch, he rose to occupy important positions in the Vajpayee cabinet, and now in the Modi government. In an interview with BW Businessworld’s Suman K. Jha, he explains how he plans to popularize Indian forms of medicine, and take them to the world.
Within six months of the formation of the Modi government, the Ayush ministry was constituted. How do you look at the last three and a half years of journey?
The objective of the Modi government is to be appreciated. We have, under PM Modi, very high goals. After taking over, the PM, within six months, formed a ministry that was dedicated to Indian forms of medicine — ayurvedic, yoga, naturopathy, homeopathy, unani, siddha. These schools are thousand years old but are neglected. Today an attempt has been made to take it to the farthest corners of the country.
Yoga is a soft power of the country. After the efforts of the PM, it was taken up by the UN. Today, we celebrate an international day for yoga. We are taking to the masses the Indian schools of medicine.
Yoga is integral to the Indian way of life. We will shortly have the World Yoga Day. Which city will be selected and what will be different this time round?
After Delhi, Chandigarh and Lucknow, this time we have given Rajasthan, MP and Karnataka as options to the PM. He will take a call.
You have constituted Ayush AIIMS. You are taking Ayush hospitals to 100 districts of the country. What’s the progress in this?
About six months ago, the PM inaugurated the Sarita Vihar AIIMS project, which was pending for a long time. Today, postgraduate studies, research, OPD, just like the regular AIIMS, are being run at this centre.
Also, in Delhi, two institutes of naturopathy and unani have been approved. From the Northeast to Kerala, we are undertaking a campaign. In Jhajhar in Haryana a naturopathy institute is coming up. In Pune, the National Institute of Yoga and Naturopathy is being renovated. In Goa, two institutes, National Institute of Yoga, and National Institute of Naturopathy, have been started. In Meghalaya, two institutes have been started — National Institute of Ayurveda and National Institute of Homeopathy. A homeopathy regional centre has been started in Tripura.
Under the Ayush Mission, we are committed to providing an Ayush hospital in each district. Till now, 100 such demands have come, and at least 70 have been approved by us, at the central level. We are also committed to starting research centres in every state.
Today, Amrita Hospital in Kerala, AIIMS in Delhi and Medanta in Gurgaon have integrated medicine centres. How do you look at the future of integrated medicine?
Integrated medicine has a very bright future. Apart from the hospitals that you mentioned, an integrated medicine department is also coming up in Apollo Hospital. In integrated medicine, the patient is the focal centre. All forms of medicine have their own strengths. If these combine and come together, there’s a possibility of the patient getting better faster. We are also taking integrated medicine to the districts. We have selected ten districts in ten states where we are offering integrated medicine. In one place, for instance, we are offering ayurvedic along with allopathic medicine. In the districts, the practitioners are screening the patients to detect non-communicable diseases in their early stages. If detected in the first stage, it becomes easier to cure these diseases.
In all these districts, allopathy and yoga are supplemented by other forms of medicine – ayurvedic, naturopathy, unani, siddha, etc. We are waiting for results from these ten districts. If satisfied, we will take up 90 more districts. We are also stressing on lifestyle changes as well as early detection of non-communicable diseases. If diseases like cancer can be detected in their early stages, treatment becomes a lot more easier. We see the efficacy of integrated medicine here.
Do you feel that by offering integrated medicine, you can promote more medical tourism?
Definitely yes! We are seeing the spread of wellness tourism. All hospitals want to have centres of integrated medicine. All forms of medicine have their inherent strengths. We need to capitalise on them all. Through the promotion of integrated medicine, medical tourism will get a big boost.
Among the objectives of the Ayush ministry, cancer and diabetes are high-focus diseases. What are your objectives? Which areas are seeing more research and development?
The year gone by was dedicated to diabetes. A committee formed by the health and Ayush ministries ran a nationwide campaign, and screened 2.5 lakh people for this disease. All those susceptible to diabetes were asked to work on their lifestyles. They were given lessons in yoga. Thus a holistic change was what we advocated through this campaign.
This year, we have chosen cancer. We are launching a nationwide campaign – we will screen people, educate them on the treatment options available, and advocate a lifestyle change. So, every year is dedicated to a disease and a holistic programme is formed around it.
Ayurvedic medicine is an important component of the Ayush mandate. What are you doing to further popularise avurveda?
We are aiming to take the Ayush mission to the grassroots. We have chosen 100 districts. We have plans to have research centres in every state. There’s also a plan to have an Ayush practitioner at each primary health centre who can initiate patients into the Ayush form of alternative medicine. This expenditure will be borne by us. We already have plans for 100 wellness centres.
Another landmark announcement was made in the Union Budget which envisaged 1.5 lakh wellness centres.We certainly will be able to popularise our forms of medicine through these schemes.
The Ayushman Bharat Mission provides for an insurance scheme for the poor. Does the mandate include the Ayush forms of treatment as well?
Of the wellness centres announced in the Union Budget, a large number will be run by the Ayush ministry.
What are you doing to popularise unani, naturopathy, siddha, etc. that come under your ministry?
We are taking the Ayush mission to the grassroots. Wherever the demand arises, we provide alternative forms of medicine, like unani and others. Then there are research centres in places like Hyderabad and Bangalore. Then there are schools like siddha, which are largely confined to two southern states. The scripts are largely in Tamil. We have told the practitioners that if they want it to grow beyond the confines of Tamil Nadu, they must get the script translated into other languages so that outsiders can study the discipline.
You have a number of projects under the ministry? Do you have enough Ayush experts?
Yes, we have! For instance, we have 350 ayurveda colleges and research centres. Similarly, we have 250 homeopathic colleges. Today, we have no less than 7 lakh Ayush practitioners. We have to ensure that all of them are gainfully utilised to spread our mission statement.
You wanted yoga to be introduced in schools, and you are working with the HRD ministry on the same. What’s the status of that?
We have proposed to the HRD ministry that yoga be introduced in schools from Class 5 onwards. Progress has been made on this, and shortly we should have resultson this.
You have also become the nodal agency for certifying yoga teachers?
Yes, we felt that the work of certifying 50,000 to 60,000 yoga practitioners by the HRD ministry was facing problems, so we thought of doing it under the Morarji Desai Yoga Institute. This should start soon.
There’s a huge controversy over the National Medical Commission Bill. One of the tenets of the Bill says that ayurvedic practitioners and others after a bridge course can practise allopathy. This is being resisted by allopathic doctors. How do you plan to address this?
Health is a state subject. In consultations with the health ministry, we found out that certain states were keen on such a measure. In far-flung areas that fall beyond the reach of allopathic doctors, the Bill stipulated that other practising doctors would be able to prescribe a limited number of medicines after passing the bridge course. But I am not aware of the latest developments, and I feel that such contentious issues must be resolved only through talks and negotiations.
You are undertaking a number of projects. Are you happy with the allocation in the Union Budget?
In the last few years, we have spent close to 100 per cent of the budget allocated. Last year, we were given Rs 200 crore more, and this year there has been a further 10 per cent hike in the budgetary allocation. Going by the demand of the people, and infrastructural needs, we feel we need more support and financial muscle.
Ayush has a lot of potential. What are the challenges facing it?
The main challenge is to make the people aware of the true potential of Ayush. When Indian was ruled by the British, they thrust upon on us the allopathic form of medicine, pushing traditional forms of medicine to the fringes.As a result, research and development in our traditional forms of medicine was affected. However, we are doing our best to take Ayush to the world outside. We have MoUs with 11 countries on Ayush; we have Ayush chairs in foreign universities, and there are as many as 28 information centres worldwide to make Aysuh popular.