Providing employment to its youth and providing health to its citizens are two responsibilities no government can avoid. Since none of these objectives can be achieved with the meagre resources, which are allotted to them, our political masters come up with innovative schemes whereby these goals may seem to be fulfilled without the government having to spend any money. These schemes help the government to claim that they are pro people when they seek votes. ‘Health for all’ or ‘Health Degree for all’ we need to decide what is our slogan and then we should all strive to achieve it. Our leaders who promote quackery in India themselves rush to the top most specialists of modern medicine, preferably at the cost of exchequer, abroad for their own even minor ailments.
Promoting quackery by training 1 lakh matriculates for one month to become proficient in the practice of primary care and giving first aid is one such hair-brained scheme recently floated by Punjab Government. Once licensed to practice modern medicine and give first aid it is logical to expect them to start small clinics in rural areas and suburban slums as “Doctors”. The government does not have to spend any money to employ these youth and simultaneously can claim that it is providing 1 lakh healthcare providers to its citizens. The problem arises when some rational citizen asks a question: “How can someone who is trained for one month provide services similar to someone qualified after five and half years training?”
Now the union government is reportedly planning to introduce ‘The Recognition of New Systems of Medicine 2014 Bill’ to recognize practitioners of electro homeopathy and other similar systems as recognized systems of medicine. Within a few years these practitioners will soon become another army of “Doctors” who will be treating patients with modern medicine. BSc (Community Health) is another three-year programme of rural doctors in modern medicine which is on the anvil.
There are other ways the government achieves this goal, one example of which is promoting and authorizing those who are qualified in alternate systems of medicine to practice modern medicine as they have done in Maharashtra and are trying to do so in Haryana. Punjab Medical Council does not act against such crosspathy despite evidence provided to it. It is a worst kept secret that alternative medical systems and the so-called AYUSH do not work in majority of medical situations. This is the reason why all AYUSH practitioners prefer to use the modern system of medicine to treat patients. The honourable Supreme Court in the case of Mukhtiar Chand vs State of Punjab and also in the case of Bhanwar Kanwar vs Dr R K Gupta has penalized Ayurvedic doctors for using allopathic drugs. In the case of Poonam Verma vs Dr Ashwin Patel the SC held that “A person who does not have knowledge of a particular system of medicine but practices in that system is a quack and a mere pretender to medical knowledge or skill, or to put it differently, a charlatan”. The government, however, still promotes this crosspathy because to be successful entrepreneurs without need of government jobs, the AYUSH doctors need to practice modern medicine. If the government were to concede the demand of MBBS doctors that crosspathy should not be allowed it would have an army of AYUSH unemployed at its hands.
There is also the issue of colleges awarding MBBS degree like Chintpurni and many others being derecognized by the Medical Council of India (MCI). This is despite the fact that the infrastructure and faculty in these colleges is much better than the best AYUSH college in the country. The training is far more rigorous and standards high for those who opt for MBBS over any AYUSH degree. In fact, those qualifying through common pre medical entrance examinations opt for MBBS course even in the worst college, followed by Dental and then by AYUSH courses in the best colleges. The reason why MBBS was the first choice of students opting for a medical course was because modern medicine is the only recognized system of medicine worldwide which is well researched and reproducible. Homeopathy has been proven to be no better than placebo and declared so by many governments in Western countries and in Australia. Our question is simple that since graduates are permitted to practice modern medicine by the government why are norms for colleges granting MBBS degree so stringent? Why should not their norms be reduced to match any AYUSH degree college since both have to practice modern medicine only?
Reducing medical training in modern medicine to the level of technical and skill training like for plumbers, electricians and automobile mechanics as imparted by ITI (Industrial Training Institute) and similar institutions is the prerogative of any government. Our request, however, is very simple. There is no point our training MBBS graduates, using stringent international training programmes, who are valued and can practice and earn their livelihood abroad but not in this country.
Our suggestion, under the circumstances, is that we should have only one graduate medical degree BISMS (Bachelor of Indian System of Medicine and Surgery) in which a limited training and exposure to modern medicine be provided to those who graduate, sufficient to make them good general primary care physicians. Scrap all other degrees like MBBS, BAMS, BUMS, BHMS and so on and so forth. All institutions providing any of these degrees should henceforth be brought under a National Health University which would award only BISMS. Criterion for setting up colleges for award of this degree should be reduced from stringent criterion as laid down by the MCI and should be similar to that of any electro homeopathy or AYUSH college as exists today, graduates of which are sought to be permitted to practice modern medicine by the government. In postgraduation Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Unani, Sowa Rigpa, Yoga, Electro-homeopathy may then be introduced to promote genuine research in these areas, as the government desires.
Dr Neeraj Nagpal
Convenor, Medicos Legal Action Group
Ex-President, IMA Chandigarh