India Report: Announcement of Department of AYUSH Promotes Flurry of Activity

Note: From time to time the Global Integrator will pull together Quick Links on a theme or a single nation’s activities. This posting regards robust developments in India.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra ModiThe fall 2014 decision by  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (pictured) to create a Department of AYUSH has stimulated a flurry of activity in that country. The move has both internal and external ramifications. The need for more alternatives was promoted by Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare head Shripad Yesso Naik at this Indian conference. The government has spoken of the intention to raise the role of traditional practices in the nation’s health plans. India’s Union home minister has noted that alternative medicine is part of the plan for a vast expansion of medical education facilities and medical care access. It is also part of an export strategy. The nation’s ambassador to Egypt used the declaration of the AYUSH ministry to link the disappearance of traditional methods in many countries to colonialism and to suggest the possibility of cross-cultural training.

The central government has announced that it will financially support a new Ayurvedic clinical research center on 50 acres in Kerala to help “scientifically validate traditional systems of healing.” The center will include a strong biotech unit. The government’s goal is to expand the already robust market for Ayurvedic medicine 5-fold by 2020. Apparently, the Indian complex will also include India’s first center for the interdisciplinary study of medicine, the Amrita Institute for Integrated Medicine and Research Center.

Mazumdar Cancer Centre launched a department of integrative oncology at Narayana Health City. Meantime, the Indian Society of Pharmacognosy called for increased exploration of traditional medicine at its 2015 meeting. The National Medicinal Plants Board inside the AYUSH Ministry is taking on the challenge of regulations relative to the use of endangered medicinal plants.  Internal jealousy was apparently provoked by the creation of the department. Siddha practitioners urged their fellows “to put a strong demand before the state government and to the central AYUSH ministry for establishing a separate Ministry for Siddha.”

Photo Doordashan and the department of AYUSHIndian television is being put to use by the government to fan interest. A collaboration between Indian national network Doordashan and the department of AYUSH led to a weekly television call-in show on traditional medicine.  The activity has not been without push-back. There is a call for a crackdown on “two types of quacks”. These are defined, on one hand, as Siddha, Ayurveda and Unani doctors who prescribe allopathic medicines or administer injections. One the other are those who reportedly claim to be traditional medicine practitioners but meet no standards. The not-altogether-friendly title of “Eat, Pray, Leeches” was placed on this feature overview on the new direction.

Recent reports have provided some dimensions to the industry. For instance, the country reportedly has over 2,300 spas generating $400-million in revenue. That market is growing 20% a year, according to this report. A state-by-state look at national products manufacturing finds “9,000 total manufacturing units.”  A good overview of the Indian government’s plans with its AYUSH department and the globalization of Ayurveda is here.

Comment: In recent years I have captured similar quick links to the robust integrative medicine activities in the United States – for instance here for February 2015. News from India speaks to a renaissance there that will continue to intrigue for how traditional medicines may be better incorporated at home, and also in the promotion of these practices and products as global contributors to health and medicine.

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