The Centre has been keen to emphasise alternative and traditional systems of medicine. Minister of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) Shripad Yasso Naik has repeatedly expressed enthusiasm for this push, advocating for AYUSH services for every home in India.
“I can say today that people are getting more and more interested in AYUSH. We have started an All India Institute of Ayurveda in Delhi in 2016,” he said. “People’s interest has increased. Nearly 2000 people visit the OPD [outpatient department] every year. Our doctors are serving them. The infrastructure that we have today is not enough. Therefore we have started a process of starting a district hospital in every district. Work on at least 100 hospitals has started and is in completion stage.”
As such, Naik said that “it is our endeavour to ensure that AYUSH schemes reach the doorstep of every home.” Naik earlier called for there to be AYUSH hospitals in every district, in order to advance “our efforts…to tap the real potential of AYUSH systems in imparting preventive, promotive and holistic healthcare to the people.” Naik said at the time that “we understand that targeting only the sick persons and aiming for their medical treatment is not sufficient to attain the goal of complete health. It is easier to prevent the diseases rather than attempting for their cure.”
Naik expounded upon the value of traditional and alternative medicine in treating noncommunicable diseases, which are surging in India. “Obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases including hypertension are some of the current health issues faced by the world,” added Naik. “In this scenario, our age-old traditional systems of medicine stand out as a way of coping with the relentless rise of chronic, noncommunicable diseases.”
The Minister has gone so far as to express optimism that alternative medicines can provide cures for diseases such as cancer. “The research into cancer treatment is still on and we have not reached the final stage but soon, quickly, a solution will be found,” he said. “We see a lot of success and I am confident that in another year, our research in almost every disease will be complete and we will be able to treat people with AYUSH medicines.”
Similar claims have been made in the past and met with considerable controversy. The prospect of Ayurvedic medicine being able to cure cancer has been disputed by experts, even as the use of treatments such as cow urine in addressing cancer has been promoted by some AYUSH advocates. “Cow urine is used in the preparation of several types of medicines. It is used even for the treatment of incurable disease like cancer,” Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said earlier this year. “The urine of the indigenous variety of cow is often used. The Ministry of AYUSH is seriously working on it.”
Controversy surrounding the medicinal value of AYUSH products notwithstanding, Naik’s assertion that AYUSH is increasing in popularity is far from unfounded with increased footfall for services administering Ayurvedic and homoeopathic treatments being witnessed in recent decades. Meanwhile, the Centre is facilitating the expansion of AYUSH services, funneling crores into integrated health research to promote holistic healthcare and announcing 12,500 wellness centres providing access to AYUSH services. “These wellness centres will have all facilities and technologies and doctors will be able to work at villages and taluka centres,” said Naik.
“We are providing AYUSH care at primary health centres,” the Minister added. “We will create AYUSH counters at district and community hospitals too. Every district will have AYUSH hospitals, which will benefit the common man.”