The Centre National Health Policy of 2017 recognises “the need for integrated courses for Indian systems of medicine”. The Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM) had issued a directive authorising PG practitioners in specified streams of Ayurveda to be trained to perform 39 surgical procedures and 19 procedures involving the eye, ear, nose and throat. A petition filed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) before the Supreme Court opposing the directive awaits adjudication. IMA claimed that the “khichdi medical system” would lead to “legalised quackery” and “produce hybrid doctors who are nowhere”.
In India, where the doctor-population ratio stands at 1:834, which is better than the WHO-recommended ratio of 1:1,000, there is a crying need for specialists, especially in rural areas. Encouraging traditional medical practitioners may help reach affordable healthcare to the rural population. At the same time, integrating multiple systems of medicines may turn counterproductive if it is not thought out properly. It may not be fair to let doctors from other streams prescribe allopathic drugs or perform surgeries without the rigorous academic training the discipline demands. New Delhi would do well to tread cautiously on the question of life and death, and the Supreme Court should make a final legal pronouncement expeditiously to settle the issue once and for all.