Meghalaya should take advantage of central subsidy to cultivate medicinal plants

Written by Meghalaya Times. Posted in Editorial

Thomas Lim
Meghalaya may be on the deficit when it comes to cultivation of cash crops; however the hobby of gardening and having a kitchen garden is definitely a favorable practice both in rural and urban sectors. On the other hand traditional medicine practitioners are no strangers to the hill state and also to the knowhow of use of various medicinal plants. In the absence of proper documentation, patenting of the herbal medicine could not be achieved as the unique Intellectual Property Rights, although a private university here has started the documentation which is yet to take shape till date.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy), Shripad Yesso Naik, in his  written reply in the Lok Sabha, highlighted that under National Ayush Mission scheme, there is a component on ‘Medicinal Plants’ which is primarily aimed at supporting cultivation of herbs and medicinal plants on farmer’s land with backward linkages through establishment of nurseries for supply of quality planting material, and forward linkages for post-harvest management.
He further added that currently, 140 medicinal plant species have been prioritized for supporting cultivation throughout the country for which subsidy is provided to farmers, such as 75 per cent subsidy for medicinal plants which are highly endangered, being given as part of a Centrally Sponsored Scheme, a 50 per cent subsidy for cultivation of medicinal plants where sources of supply are critically declining and 30 per cent for other medicinal plants species which need support is also being given.
Naik informed the Parliament that the cultivation programme is implemented through the identified implementing agency of the concerned state (generally state Agriculture or Horticulture Departments) and the financial assistance is provided as per the State Annual Action Plan approved for it. As per scheme guidelines, the financial assistance to northeast and hill states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir is provided in the ratio of 90:10, whereas in other states it is shared in the ratio of 60:40 between Central and the state government.
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.
In an attempt to encourage the farmers to take up cultivation of medicinal plants, the AYUSH centre here in the state in collaboration with the state government, should encourage the practices, at the same time assist the universities who are making an attempt to documents the traditional practices to speed up the publication work in order to encourage the farmers.
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.
This 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 a 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, it has been found on many incidents that life saving drugs which need 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 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, once there is better demand; the farmers will surely try to produce more medicinal plants and improved the living standards of the state.


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