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Kerala Public Health Bill 2021: The Death Knell for AYUSH?

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By Suresh Unnithan 

Thiruvananthapuram: The CPI (M) led Left government in Kerala is again in quandary, thanks to the new Kerala Public Health Bill, 2021. The Bill is widely perceived as a “calculated design to jettison AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga& Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy) from the State’s health care system and reinforce the monopoly of Allopathic”

Prof. Dr E S Rajendran MD(Hom), Ph.D

A careful study of the Bill exposes the “ulterior and vested motives” behind the “hasty move” to “modernize and unify” the State’s health care system.  As Prof Dr Rajendran, a practicing homeopath for the past three decades who has a doctorate in nano medicines observes, “If the government in power is genuinely interested in optimizing the efficacy of our health care system, why the AYUSH is kept away.  There are millions in the state who have faith in AYUSH systems. There are umpteen cases Homeopathy and other AYUSH system proved effective where Allopath failed.“

Dr Aneesh, a postgraduate in Ayurveda medicines from Nedumangad, Thiruvananthapuram, apprehends that this Bill could potentially jeopardize the future of Ayurveda. “Ayurveda is the most popular healthcare system, maybe next to Allopathic.  In my experience there is a shift seen in favour of Ayurveda among the educated and elite.  They might have started experiencing the curative competency of our Indian System of Medicines.

Dr Rajendran has made a thorough scrutiny of the Bill and analyses the threats hidden within.  The stated intention of the Bill is “to consolidate and to unify the existing laws relating to public health in the State of Kerala and to provide for the enhancement of administration of Public Health in the State of Kerala,” But Dr Rajendran apprehends that the new Bill,  if becomes an Act, will endanger the entire AYUSH system. “The Bill is to confirm the monopoly of Allopath and the pharmaceutical will dominate and dictate the state healthcare scenario.”

Dr Rajendran’s apprehension seems to be genuine  for the second chapter of the Bill elaborates   that  necessary  administrative powers  regarding  all aspects of public health at state level, district and local self government institutions for emerging diseases, communicable diseases and non communicable diseases are absolutely vested  with   the department of Allopathy, totally ignoring the AYUSH. “We should note that Ayurveda and Homeopathy had similar infrastructure at state, district and Panchayat levels all over the state but the allopathic is empowered officially to manage the healthcare system and we are treated subservient.”

Registering his dissent against the Bill that confers supremacy to the Allopathic system Dr Aneesh says “ All the qualified and eligible medical practitioners  from Allopathic, Ayurvedic, Homeopathic and other recognised streams are graduated with a five and a half year minimum education.  Many of them are postgraduates with specialisation. So why are the Ayush practitioners treated inferior and entirely ignored in the Bill?”

The government vehemently argues that the effort was to “bring in a comprehensive Act for checking the spread of communicable diseases and for the department to make effective and coordinated interventions, including legal steps.”  But the Ayush fraternity sees this bill as an instrument to stifle the traditional Indian Medical system and impedes useful research in this field in connection with the cure of communicable diseases. “If the intent was genuine why the AYUSH practitioners were not involved in the drafting process of the Bill, they ask.”

Many AYUSH researchers apprehend that the certain provision in the Bill could be used to upset the studies in this field in connection with the cure of communicable diseases. The Ayush practitioners are also surprised at the provision of punishment for the failure to report a communicable disease mentioned in chapter 7 of the Bill.

Dr M B Aneesh BAMS, MD(Ay)

As per the chapter two of the Bill that elaborates on the “public health authorities and their powers”- only allopathic practitioners in charge of every health care decision making process and the AYUSH system is ignored. Similarly, the third chapter that describes “Water for human use and disposal of waste water” says all the delegation of powers is exclusive to the department of Allopathy and not for any other system. Here also the AYUSH is ignored.

As stated in the Chapter 4 dealing with “Sanitary conveniences (Chapter 4)” all powers, including certifying authority is delegated exclusively to the Allopathic department. Regarding “Abatement of nuisance” (Chapter 5) total powers are with the Allopathic system.

Similarly, for “Reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health” (Chapter 6) Powers are completely entrusted with the Allopathic department.  Contesting this clause Dr Rajendran said that “the Janani project under the Homeopathic department in Kerala cured thousands of infertility cases to give birth to healthy children. All such parents took homeopathic medication after years of toiling under Allopathic without any benefit. The Government of Kerala has records establishing the fact that homeopathy is far superior to allopathic treatment in infertility.” Hence what is the logic in keeping away Homoeopathy, he asked.   

In Chapter 7 titled “Prevention, notification and treatment of communicable diseases and notifiable communicable diseases” 33 diseases are listed under communicable diseases, including chicken pox, measles, hepatitis, viral fevers etc. 15 diseases are listed under notifiable communicable diseases. “Every clause under this chapter infringes the patient’s freedom to choose among the multiple systems of medicines provided by the government. Fundamental Right guaranteed by the constitution of India is tampered with.”

According to him “Treatment protocol is exclusive and arbitrary under the Allopathic. As per the provisions in this Bill patients and AYUSH doctors are liable to be punished for treating any of these listed diseases and any expanded list of future.”

 According to another AYUSH practitioner “the hypothetical treatment strategy of Allopathic miserably failed during COVID 19, but the administration was compelling people to use only allopathic medicines without any positive result.  Later people took their own decision regarding their health and used AYUSH medication to get relief and cure.

Supporting the above observation a senior AYUSH practitioner said “there is no proven cure for viral infections in Allopathic, but there is cure in homeopathy and other AYUSH systems.” The medical practitioner also commented that too much centralisation of power in human health could prove disastrous.

Chapter 8 is dealing with “Vector control” (a method to limit or eradicate the mammals, birds, insects or other arthropods, collectively called “vectors”  which transmit disease pathogens. Here also all powers are delegated to Allopathic. Similarly chapters 9 concerning Fairs, festivals, public and community gatherings the power and authority is exclusively with the Allopath.

In the “health care program for the aged, destitute and the likes’ ‘ (Chapter 10-) also the total control is with  Allopathic at government level. In fact, such a health care program should have been exclusively assigned to the AYUSH in general and Ayurveda in particular, for Ayurveda has proven expertise in dealing with geriatric ailments.

In the ”Control of non – communicable diseases’ ‘ (Chapter 11) also AYUSH is kept out.  The list of non – communicable diseases include a- respiratory, b- Cardiac, c- Renal diseases, d- cancers, e- Diabetes, f- Hypertension, g- Dementia, h- Neurological, I- Musculoskeletal, j- Arthritis, k- Obesity, L- Psychiatry diseases, etc. “There is an effective cure for all such diseases in AYUSH systems of medicines. If the Bill is enacted the patients suffering from all such conditions will be legally bound to take allopathic drugs like steroids lifelong and die with the side effects and complications of drugs, not from the original illness.” said Dr Rajendran.

According to Advocate Salini Mavoor this Bill violates article 14, 19 (1)(g) and 21 of the constitution of India. “No Act can violate the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution. Article 14 stipulates equality so all systems of medicine should be treat equally.  Article (1)(g) ensures freedom for practicing trade, business, occupation, profession and this Bill indirectly restricts all these.  According to Article 21 the State cannot impose a particular system of medicine. Our constitution guarantees right to life and personal liberty which means we are free to choose any medical system of our choice. And also none one can, directly or indirectly, deny the opportunity to practice a legally approved and accepted medical system. The Bill is indirectly affecting the doctors, manufacturers and all other stakeholders of AYUSH system.”

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