Alternative medicine practitioners happy

A fresh wave of hope has spread across the fraternity of doctors practising the alternative systems of medicine, with the Union Budget planning to mainstream ayurveda, Unani, siddha and homoeopathy through the National Health Mission and allocate Rs 1,069 crore to the Department of AYUSH.

Dr R A Mashelkar, scientist emeritus who was vice-chairman of the Planning Commission's strategic group on health, told Newsline that the focus would be on bringing both modern and alternate systems of medicine together. "The Chinese government spends a sizeable amount on their ancient system of medicine like acupuncture, while the Indian government has in the past allotted minimal amounts to encourage the alternative systems of medicine," Mashelkar said, welcoming the decision.

"We had debated the proposals in October last year at the Planning Commission's meeting and I am glad that they have decided to mainstream the alternative systems through the National Health Mission," he added. Dr Bhushan Patwardhan, Director of the Inter-Disciplinary School of Health Sciences at University of Pune who was also in the task force of the Planning Commission, said they had strongly recommended that alternate systems of medicine should be encouraged to boost trans-disciplinary research.

According to Dr Arun Jhamkar, Vice-Chancellor of the Maharashtra University of Health Science (MUHS), encouraging ayurvedic research could also boost economy. "There are 60 ayurveda colleges, five Unani and 40 homoeopathy colleges. Focus on evidence-based research from among the Indian system of medicine will ensure newer drugs that will be cheaper and more effective," he Jhamkar.

Pune's Tilak Ayurved College and Tarachand hospital managing trustee Dr Suhas Parchure said the budgetary provision for AYUSH should also be translated in terms of teaching and maintenance grants for colleges that struggle to pay salaries to retain staff. While ayurvedic and homeopathic practitioners will now be recruited under the National Rural Health Mission for various posts, Parchure said, there was also a need to provide grants to improve infrastructure at ayurveda colleges.

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