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Ayurvedic institutes in Gujarat given Parliament nod as institutions of national importance

Ayurveda.In a first, a proposed Ayurvedic institute in Gujarat is to be afforded the distinction of being considered an Institution of National Importance, following a vote by lawmakers in the Rajya Sabha.

Lawmakers in the chamber passed by voice vote the Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda Bill, 2020, conferring upon a number of Ayurvedic institutes in Gujarat’s Jamnagar district the Institution of National Importance label that are to be consolidated in a single entity. Shripad Yasso Naik, Minister of State in the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), introduced the legislation. 

Per a Government-issued press release, the Bill “seeks to merge three Ayurveda institutes into one institution by the name of Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda” that assumes the distinction of an Institution of National Importance. The institutions in question are the Institute of Post Graduate Teaching and Research in Ayurveda, the Shree Gulabkunverba Ayurved Mahavidyalaya, and the Indian Institute of Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical Sciences. The consolidated Institution will be based on the campus of the Gujarat Ayurved University.

The passage of the Bill by Rajya Sabha MPs marks the first time that the distinction of an Institution of National Importance has been afforded to an Ayurvedic institute. “The institution has been chosen in the most careful manner because it is the oldest Ayurveda centre created by the government way back in 1956,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare. “This is the number one institution that deserves this status.” He said that “Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine in the country with so much of traditional wisdom attached.” 

The promotion of alternative and traditional medicine has been a staple of the Union Government under the National Democratic Alliance administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s health policy since it first came to power in 2014. The creation of the AYUSH Ministry is a testament to this. 

The Modi administration has sought to expand the AYUSH infrastructure in India. Last year, plans for an AYUSH hospital for every district in India were announced. Naik said at the time “we have brought out a scheme wherein AYUSH hospitals be it Ayurveda, Unani will be set up in every district as per requirement.” He added 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. Obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases including hypertension are some of the current health issues faced by the world. 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 legitimacy conferred on the systems of medicine under the AYUSH bracket – despite a lack of scientific evidence – has not been without controversy, however. This has been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The suggestion by the AYUSH Ministry that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could potentially through homoeopathic means was met with derision and accusations of pushing pseudoscience. Even before the pandemic, AYUSH engendered controversy. An advisory note that declared any research into AYUSH ought to have an AYUSH practitioner or be rejected was roundly criticised. News Click, at the time, stated that “the advisory nullifies scientificity in its essence.”

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