FPJ Edit: An ayurveda-versus-allopathy duel is just what the doctor would not have ordered

This dance of death could have done without a macabre encore. It is so tragic that one would think it would have scarcely left people with any stomach for nonsense. But yoga instructor Ramdev, who is also into ayurveda, apart from selling consumer goods ranging from oils to spices and garments, is not known for political maturity or cultural finesse. He speaks his mind and does it bluntly, without caring for the sagacity of his arguments. He couldn’t have made a more farcical intervention at this critical juncture, when the entire country is grappling with both genuine and irrational anxieties about survival, by triggering an ayurveda-versus-allopathy duel.

There is no basis for this competition; it can exist only in thoughtless minds. Ayurveda and yoga have their own importance and worth. They need not be pitched against a modern system of medicine based on science. The novel coronavirus that has killed millions across the world doesn’t need a trivial debate. It calls for a joint battle, with every little bit that can help, even as the primary responsibility rests on the greatest system of allopathy, which alone has the know-how and wherewithal to tackle this mysterious outbreak. No other system of medicine can even nurture pretensions to understanding the origin and growth of such viruses. Scientists pulled off a miracle by genetic decoding of the virus and creating vaccines to protect mankind. If anybody entertains the idea of competition between traditional medicine and science, perish the thought. The value of this discourse is less than a cheap joke.

Even the doctors are wasting their time by engaging in a fierce rivalry with the likes of Ramdev who has himself whittled down his worth as a practitioner of yoga and ayurveda by his overarching commercial and political interests. While many believe Ramdev, an ally of the RSS-BJP, deliberately attacked doctors because the Indian Medical Association (IMA) questioned the Narendra Modi government’s management of the pandemic, others see this as a hollow rant of a semi-literate person. The IMA didn’t only serve a legal notice on Ramdev but also wrote to the Prime Minister demanding a charge of sedition against him.

Though the IMA took care to reiterate that it respected, acknowledged and complimented all systems of medicine, especially the Indian system of Ayurvedic medicine, the better course was to laugh away the businessman’s preposterous charges. Ramdev’s basic facts were wrong – he said 10,000 doctors died after taking both doses of vaccine and the patients who got admission in hospitals were worse off. Why lend credibility to such rubbish by engaging legally and politically with such a person? Though Ramdev has a high bargaining counter being close to the ruling establishment, the majority of people grappling with such immense grief and turmoil would have ignored his utterances.

The questions he asked – about the lack of cure for several diseases in the allopathic system – are meaningless at this juncture. Everybody knows there is no cure for diabetes, hypertension or several other diseases. But allopathy has succeeded in helping people manage their lives despite being afflicted with these ailments. Life expectancy in India before Independence was less than 40, which has now increased to 70. Modern science has indisputably helped the masses live better, live longer.

Though Ramdev does not represent yoga or Ayurveda - India has had eminent practitioners for ages - he should concentrate on improving the quality of research and medicine because nobody else is in possession of such vast resources as his Patanjali. No point in asking irrelevant questions about allopathy. There is room for improvement everywhere. Healthcare infrastructure in India is doubtless in a pathetic state. Bad doctors, wrong diagnosis, over-medication and exorbitant costs are undeniable problems. But those are issues related more to political and social morality than science. It is futile to confuse the gullible masses; a huge influencer like Ramdev should be careful with his utterances.

If allopathy has shortcomings, what should people do? Rely on herbs and spices? Stop going to the hospital? And an even bigger question -- what should India do? Dismantle its modern healthcare system and fully return to traditional medicine and yoga? Every stakeholder should strike a balance in their attitude and action. The government too should have unambiguously settled the debate in favour of scientific temper while stressing the importance of Ayurveda and yoga in boosting immunity. A vast and complex country like India can be governed only with extreme care, sensitivity and sense of accommodation. The need of the hour is to save people, not create confusion and distrust.

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