Knowledge of traditional healers needs preservation and promotion: Naik

Written by Meghalaya Times. Posted in Editorial

Thomas Lim
It is better late than never, after a long struggle, finally Meghalaya  got its institute of North Eastern Institute of Ayurveda and Homoeopathy (NEIAH), with its permanent campus located near NEIGHRIMS at Mawdiangdiang, Shillong. Union Minister of State Independent Charge, Ministry of AYUSH Shripad Yessa Naik on December 21, 2016 dedicated the institute to the state and also took the privilege of declaring the commencement of the academic session 2016-2017 both under graduate teaching programme of Ayurveda and Homeopathy.
Naik emphasized on the need to preserve and promote knowledge of traditional healers from the North East region. He stressed on the important to take this knowledge and use it in our modern system of medicine. The Central Government is trying to take and make it scientifically validated based on ethno botanical and scientific research with practical suitability for clinical practices as was informed by the Minister.

Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) and Homoeopathy have been silently bridging the gap in health care for many who come from the economically weaker section of the society for time immemorial, particularly in the remote and backward areas of the entire North Eastern Region (NER).
Naik also added that the system of Homeopathy is widely accepted by the people of NE especially the people of Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram; he said this is due to its low cost and easy palatability. So this institute will further help for promotion quality improvement of homeopathy medicine practice in the region.
Earlier, the Traditional Medical Practitioners in Meghalaya have been providing services as a boon especially in this age of high cost of medical care. In view of the traditional practices where no documentary records are being maintained, no track reports about the medical history of the patients, the Medical Council could not recognize the services. It is therefore really encouraging that the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) on July 5, 2016 decided to appoint expert consultants to conduct a study or research on the medicinal plants being used by traditional healers before issuing licenses to them.
The decision was taken at the second sitting of the Khasi Traditional Medicine Commission (KTMC) constituted by the KHADC held here in the city. The meeting was attended by medical experts from different fields which include Homeopathy, Allopathy and others. It was also decided that the Commission would also set up its office in the KHADC building to ensure the issue pertaining to promotion of traditional healers are addressed in a proper manner.
It may be mentioned here that the KTMC was constituted to give legal recognition to the traditional medicinal practitioners and healers as per the Khasi Traditional Medicine Act.
Former President of India, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who understood the potential of the medicinal plants of Meghalaya, invited the practitioners of traditional medicine to plant saplings in the Maugal Garden of the Parliament. In Meghalaya, till date only the individual or village are preserving all the traditional plants, none of the government departments or organizations have attempted to promote the medicinal plants.
In the fear of being duplicated, the findings and practices by the traditional practitioners have been kept close to their chest, not even letting the family members know of their findings and as such a wealth of knowledge has been returned to nature with their demise.
The health care facilities in the rural area is pathetic, all the government hospitals, PHCs and CHCs are always said to be running short of medicine, worst so, even the Civil Hospital in Shillong is facing the same problems and sometimes even medicines which have crossed the expiry dates are being administered to the patients.
The pharmacies in Meghalaya are mostly operating on hired licenses, hence on many occasions NGOs had seized expired medicines from the pharmacies even in Urban areas, so one can imagine the rural sector.
It is not only Meghalaya that has the traditional medicine practitioners in India who are finding it difficult to make both ends meet. The demand for allopathic medicine has even pushed the generic medicines off the market. The decision of the Narendra Modi government to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh for cooperation in the field of traditional system of medicine and homeopathy will surely give a new stem of life to the local practitioners.
The proposed MoU will pave the way for both the countries to share their respective cultural heritage. It is also expected to provide a structured frame work for cooperation between the two countries for the promotion of Indian traditional system of medicine and homeopathy in Bangladesh.
There will be no additional financial implications involved; financial resources necessary to conduct research, training courses, conferences and meetings will be met from the existing allocated budget and existing plan schemes of the Department of AYUSH, of the health ministry.
Till the attempt to expose traditional medicines to Bangladesh, all the medicinal plants and practices of medicine were only confined to a handful. The Meghalaya Health Department is still formulating schemes and projects of this age old traditional medicine practice. Hence, the traditional practitioners in many instances are not recognized.
Meghalaya, known as the hub for various medicinal plants, has only banked on the Department of AYUSH, a part of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India.
Besides few workshops and seminars of the traditional healers, the state government is doing nothing to promote the traditional practices in Meghalaya. It is also surprising to note that even the Health Ministry here in the state could not distinguish between the Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy practices.
More than 150 indigenous traditional healers are practicing under the shadows, besides the rural health care, but the urban folk hardly take the services of the traditional practitioners. However, many foreigners come all the way from Germany, France, UK, Australia and from all over India to Meghalaya looking for health options from traditional system of medicine?
If the state government extends support in implementing the KHADC Khasi Traditional Medicine Act 2011, it will have multiple impacts such as improving the economic livelihood of the people, including activating Local Herbal Health tourism in the State.
Not to talk about the generic medicine, even such expensive branding of medicine on many incidents found that the life saving drugs which needs to be stored under refrigeration and kept away from direct sunlight are being sold in many pharmacies which are functioning without a refrigerator or proper storing place.
In the urban areas the pharmacies are mushrooming in every nook and corner, which is good for the society, but when it is not up to the specification, is going to harm the society more.
Health is Wealth is a widely known maxim whereas the concerned authorities are lagging behind in checking and providing quality health care to the people. How do we answer to the younger generation in these aspects?
The government should conduct checking in all the pharmacies in the state, any flaw found should not be compromised, but immediate action should be taken, which could even mean closing down the pharmacy, as this is dealing with human lives, and the incumbent Chief Minster, Dr Mukul M Sangma will understand this the best being a qualified doctor himself. It is also hoped that the generic medicine is encouraged to facilitate health care to all sections of the society.


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