Traditional versus Modern
India has a rich lexicon of traditional medicinal practices. The recent tussle between the traditional systems and modern medicine has started the debate about which is better. After the government legalized the use of some surgical methods in the traditional system, the spark became a fire and the fight between the two intensified. In December 2020 postgraduates of Ayurveda were allowed to practice specific medical surgeries through a government notification. Indian Medical Association (IMA) criticized this move and protested against it.
India is a country with strong cultural beliefs and trust in traditional ways and means. Hence people cannot be coerced to completely reject these systems. A better model would be the one where both complement each other. Take China for example. In China, both traditional along with modern medicines were used during the COVID-19 pandemic and they reported a decrease in mortality rates.
In India, six traditional systems namely Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy, Sowa Rigpa, Naturopathy and Siddha are recognised by the government. A dedicated ministry of AYUSH was established to formalize these traditional systems. They can be used to complement modern Allopathy because India is a densely populated country with a shortage of medical experts. Synergies between the two systems and collaborative work can help ease the burden on the present healthcare infrastructure.
Hence instead of viewing each other as arch-nemesis, they should try to work in tandem for the goal of a better public health care system. Also, there is a large population in rural India and even among the urban intelligentsia who put their faith in traditional medicines for various non-lethal medical conditions. The traditional system can help reduce the burden faced by the modern system of medicine. COVID -19 overwhelmed the hospitals and less serious illnesses were sidelined. This created discomfort for many patients. In such a situation a well organized traditional system was able to provide relief to many. Together they can reinvigorate the health care system for the benefit of the public at large.
Although only six systems of traditional medicines are recognized by the ministry there are several other systems that are lesser-known because they are practiced amongst remote communities or tribal communities. A lot of research is required to compile that knowledge. India needs to get intellectual property rights for its rich heritage. Traditional knowledge digital library (TKDL) is an initiative by the government of India to collect these hidden cultural treasures.
Lastly, the choice remains with the public. They can decide where to get treated. The role of government should be to formalize the traditional system. More solid evidence of their efficacy and therapeutic effect should be collected. This will not only win the trust of the people but also the doctors practicing modern medicine.
Also, it is important to recognize the contribution of the doctors during the pandemic. Public figures should refrain from passing sensitive comments because the country is going through a tumultuous time. Solidarity and appreciation for the compromises made by the doctors should be instilled. The differences should be kept on the back burner. Instead, emphasis on the fight against the common enemy, the Wuhan virus, should be the pivot of all discussions.