Prime Minister Narendra Modi's passion towards holistic alternative healthcare is well known. It was Modi who made the unanimously accepted suggestion at the United Nations to declare June 21 as International Day of Yoga some three years ago. His just ended meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has seen a vision statement that talks about increased bilateral cooperation in traditional medicines including ayurveda and yoga. Back home, yoga guru Ramdev will definitely attribute the stupendous growth of his ayurveda product brand Patanjali in the last four years to the general positivity created by the Modi regime.
But that is not all. A series of administrative and policy measures being undertaken by the ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) are attempting to mainstream alternative systems of medicine more than ever. Here are the highlights:
At least half a dozen ministries including the ministries of railways, labour and defence have agreed to collaborate with AYUSH ministry to set up special wings for AYUSH systems within the allopathic hospitals run by them. For instance, all zonal hospitals of the ministry of railways in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Guwahati will have AYUSH doctors and paramedics serving the patients. Similarly, exclusive AYUSH hospitals and clinics will be set up by the Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC).
Even as more facilities are coming up in the public sector, efforts are also there to promote private investments and entrepreneurship in this area. "AYUSH is one of the 12 champion services sectors the government wants to promote. The AYUSH hospitals and wellness centres can avail soft loans and interest subsidy under this scheme", says Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, AYUSH secretary. Even single physician run clinic with five beds can become eligible for the scheme. The government has also come up with a draft entry level standard for AYUSH clinics and professionals to screen such loan applications and ensure quality of service in such institutions. While the government has set aside Rs 5000 crore to promote champion services, the AYUSH ministry hopes to utilize the fund to create at least one lakh job opportunities in near future. Its memorandum of understanding with the ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) focuses on organising entrepreneurship programmes across the country to popularise the scheme.
Kotecha claims that the government's efforts have resulted in a 15 - 20 % growth in patient inflow to AYUSH sectors.
While there is no authentic data on the market size of AYUSH sector, a study commissioned by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) estimates the size of India's ayurveda sector to be close to $ 4 billion. Considering the fact that India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) estimates Indian hosptial industry to be over $ 60 billion, the Ayurveda sector is still in its infancy. The government's resolve to triple the industry size to $ 9 billion by 2022, hence look plausible.