Friday, March 23, 2012

How far AyurvEdic system of medicine has progressed since Gandhiji's comments of 1942-46?

This post was originally made by me at my blog
. It seems equally relevant here, as well. Hence I am re-posting here.

Gandhiji wrote to an Ayurvedic physician, Vallabhram Vaidya, on 28th June 1942. From the context of the letter, we get an impression that the doctor was seeking Gandhiji's help for getting Government's monetary support to promote AyurvEda.

Source of the letter: Vol. 83 of Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi:

I have already told you that Ayurveda cannot be saved either by money or by State help. Would the State be able to revive Ayurveda even if it gave thousands of rupees every month to the purveyers of indigenous tonics? Hundreds of people have laid down their lives to spread allopathy. Allopathy by itself is not expensive but the doctors and the chemists have made it so. You have not seen their books giving the formula and cost of each important medicine. The cost price of Bayer’s Sarsaparilla is one and a half pice but its market price today is ten rupees. The same is true of the doctors’ fees. Ayurvedacharya Gananath Sen charges one thousand rupees for a day when he goes out of station. Without yajna there can be no achievement. Yajna implies ceaseless intelligent labour to the extent that it makes a person sweat and all that, again, dedicated to the Lord. Ayurveda has not yet become a science. In a science there is always scope for progress. Where is any progress here? Come when you feel like it.
Shankerlal Banker has again gone there. He has again fallen ill. Go and see him. Treat him if you can.

1. Gandhiji's observation about high drug prices, giving example of Bayer selling a paise worth sarsapilla for Rupees 10/- is very important. It holds good even after 70 years i.e. 2012. The Multi Nationals are sucking the patients.

2. Gandhiji's observation about Rs. 1,000 per day fee charged by the AyurvEdAcArya GannAthSen is very important. Rs. 1,000 in the prices transcribes to a million Rupees at 2012 prices. There are no AyurvEdic physicians who charge such astronomical sums. We may have allopathic specialists and consultants in Mumbai and Delhi charging Rs. 1 million a day (open fees and disguised charges). The practice of Doctors fixing their prices on demand and supply is Centuries old.

3. There was a questions and answers session between Gandhiji and Vallabhram Vaidya about development of Ayurveda, held in 1946. It is available in Vol. 92 of Collected Works. Date: October 14, 1946. I reproduce the text as it is very relevant:

Q. Wouldn’t it be better to set up a public institution at Bordi for conducting research in the Ayurvedic system of medicine?
A. It would be good to make Bordi a public institution.
Q. The Government Ayurvedic Colleges teach seventy per cent allopathy. Ayurveda should be taught as a separate science. When this question was first discussed you had said that you would arrange for me to meet Dr. Gilder.
A . The Ayurvedic education is something I have been long interested in. The work can certainly be pursued if there are vaidyas you know who think like you and who are selfless. Only then would it be useful for you to go to Dr. Gilder.
Q. It is difficult to find vaidyas who fully share my views. There are some who are too orthodox to allow any changes or innovations in the Ayurvedic system while others want to turn it into allopathy. In fact Ayurveda is based on theory of tridosha[2] and its cure is based on five basic substances.
A. What do you think of Joshi of Poona? If there is no one else, what can you do by yourself? Many doctors have told me that the treatment based on tridosha is a fraud. It is for you to prove that it is not so. It is also for you to train vaidyas like you.
What Dr. Gilder has passed has also been prepared by vaidyas. Bhadkamkar, Lagu, Gananath Sen and Vishwanath are from among you, are they not?
Q. The doctors do not know anything about the treatment based on tridosha . Bhadkamkar and other vaidyas are more of doctors than vaidyas, and that is why they have approved the scheme.
A. I can arrange a meeting with Dr. Gilder. But I would advise you to see Bhadkamkar and Joshi. Have a little talk with Sushila Nayyar, with Satis Babu, too. He is here at present.
Q. I have gone through the book Prakritik Chikitsa which you gave me. It is full of tall talk and is not based on the author’s personal experience. He has described properties of medicines without citing authority.
A. I have noted the tall talk in it. Only you can write authoritatively on medicines.
Q. I will prepare the students. But it is obvious that my syllabus will be different from that prescribed by the Government Board. So what shall we do about its registration?
A. Prepare something. Do not worry about registration. First of all train the volunteers. It is not necessary for them to have degrees. If they are good I will accommodate them. I do not care for degrees.

We find from the above, Gandhiji advised vaidya to train volunteers. It is not clear whether Vaidya trained any volunteers. Gandhiji's life during Nov. 1946 - 30th Jan. 1948 was filled with strife owing to communal riots between Hindus and Muslims, partition of India. He was in Bengal for some time.

From Gandhiji's letters of 1945 to Gulazarilal Nanda, and Devdas, quoted by me in my previous post, Gandhiji considered that he consumed poison by an excess intake of AyurvEdic drugs. For his hookworm and amoebae, he preferred to have an allopath.

Many Ayurvedic Drug Companies today make money by making and fast selling viagra substitutes. Making aphrodisiacs and pushing them on very rich parents, in the name of vAjIkaraNam is a very old business in India.

Kerala State made some progress in Ayurvedic Medical Tourism, by pouring oils on patients' heads.

Middle and rich classes are purchasing mediclaim insurance policies paying heavy amounts. Some State Governments like Andhra Pradesh are offering Health Insurance Schemes like ArOgya Sri and have become chief patrons of Corporate Hospitals.

So called "positive homoeopathy" has become another money-spinner.

Gandhiji was busy with freedom struggle in 1940s. What are we busy with today? Boozing?

Smoking-generated diseases, alcoholism-generated diseases, adulterated unclean food generated diseases, air-water-and sound pollution generated diseases are driving people into bankruptcy.

Gandhiji had Dr. Sushila Nayyar as his personal physician, and always after him in attendance. Am Admi (common man) today cannot and does not have such luxuries.

Craze for super-speciality hospital treatment and inability to get it owing to financial weakness, are making people more sick, than the real illness.

Unbranded herbal powders, I find as a solution for our present predicament. This has to be discussed in depth.

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