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Ayurvedic treatment in defence forces just for select few?

Saturday, 06 April 2013 | J Gopikrishnan | New Delhi

The armed forces misled the Delhi High Court last year by claiming on affidavit that Ayurvedic treatment was not approved within the services.

The affidavit, filed by the Director-General of Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS) came on a PIL seeking the court's directive for reimbursement of treatment expenses of a NSG commando PV Manesh, wounded in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

The fact remains that the Army has Ayurved Kendras in its base hospitals at Delhi, Pune and Jamnagar, and its top officers are known to avail of Ayurvedic treatments even in private hospitals.

In June 2012, DGAFMS told the Delhi High Court that no system of medicine, except for the Allopathic system of medicine, was approved in the forces. "Introduction of a pluralistic system of medicine in the armed forces is likely to create various issues and needs to be addressed appropriately. The issue of introduction of Indian Systems of Medicine in the Armed Forces has repeatedly been considered and not agreed to due to valid scientific reasons," the DGAFMS said in the affidavit.

Detailing its objections, the forces told the High Court that Indian systems of medicine were not auditable. The affidavit also said that the introduction of other systems of medicines may lead to "infectious diseases, which may jeopardize the health and well-being of his fellow colleagues."

The affidavit told the Court that this decision was taken after consultations with the Defence Ministry and the chiefs of the three services.

However, documents and medical prescriptions sourced by The Pioneer show that the forces misled the High Court.

The Health Ministry's annual appraisal documents show that on January 25, 2004, the first Ayurved Kendra was inaugurated by Defence Secretary Ajay Prasad at the Army Base Hospital in Delhi Cantonment. Another Ayurved Kendra was opened in the Armed Forces Medical College in Pune subsequently. Moreover,  in collaboration with Gujarat Ayurved University, satellite ayurved clinics are functioning at the units of the Army and the Navy in Valsura, Jamnagar.

"The establishment of the Ayurvedic Center at the Army Base Hospital is a pioneering step to integrate Ayurvedic and modern medicines in the armed forces. The venture will provide convergence of two different medical systems and enable holistic healthcare and patient-friendly treatment. With its herb-based, cost effective and culture friendly approach, the promotion and acceptance of Ayurveda, a branch of traditional medicine, scientifically and systematically documented for more than 5,000 years, is in keeping with the resurgence of interest in Ayurveda at the international level," the Ministry of Defence had said in a statement regarding the Ayurved Kendra. 

Prescriptions of doctors also show that several Generals, Admirals and their family members regularly use Ayurvedic medicines. On the other hand, the same officials have rejected the reimbursement bills of a wounded soldier, who squarely depends on Ayurvedic treatments. It is also a well-known fact that Defence Minister AK Antony has been taking Ayurvedic treatment for his spondylitis related problems for the last two decades.

Sources say that a strong lobby of doctors who practice the allopathic system of medicine in DGAFMS, is behind the move to file the misleading affidavit in the High Court.

The Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Defence Ministry and all three service chiefs in the first week of August 2011 on the basis of a report published in The Pioneer on July 20, 2011, revealing the plight of the NSG commando, who became paralyzed in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

The PIL in this regard was filed by a Delhi-based Advocate Arjun Harkauli.

The commando PV Manesh, decorated with the Shaurya Chakra, was discharged from a Army hospital in a wheelchair and started walking after getting Ayurvedic treatment.

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