All is not well with In­dian Board of Al­ter­na­tive Medicine

FACT CHECK The Med­i­cal Coun­cil of In­dia has, in re­sponse to an RTI, in­formed the Cen­tral In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sion that IBAM’s de­grees are not valid

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - EDUCATION - Jee­van Prakash Sharma

The gov­ern­ment is giv­ing a big push to al­ter­na­tive medicine sys­tems through its min­istry of AYUSH – an acro­nym for Ayurveda, Yoga and Natur­opa­thy, Unani, Sid­dha and Ho­moeopa­thy. How­ever, the In­dian Board of Al­ter­na­tive Medicine (IBAM), Kolkata, which pro­motes such sys­tems, does not have the ap­provals to teach medicine.

This has been re­vealed by the Med­i­cal Coun­cil of In­dia (MCI), the reg­u­la­tory body for teach­ing medicine. It has in­formed the Cen­tral In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sion that the de­grees awarded by IBAM are not valid. MCI was re­spond­ing to an RTI ask­ing for clar­ity on the qual­i­fi­ca­tions of doc­tors from IBAM. Yashovard­han Azad, Cen­tral In­for ma­tion Com­mis­sioner, has said, “This is a mat­ter of grave con­cern since pub­lic health is at high risk ow­ing to these prac­ti­tion­ers who have no proper knowl­edge or train­ing to ren­der med­i­cal as­sis­tance. In view of the “se­ri­ous­ness of the is­sue,” Azad said, the com­mis­sion wanted its con­cerns to be com­mu­ni­cated to the sec­re­tary, min­istry of health and fam­ily wel­fare for im­me­di­ate ac­tion to curb this prac­tice which is pos­ing a threat to pub­lic health.

To teach medicine, in­sti­tutes need the ap­provals of one of the three reg­u­la­tory bod­ies – MCI for mod­ern medicine; and Cen­tral Coun­cil of In­dian Medicine (CCIM) and Cen­tral Coun­cil of Ho­moeopa­thy (CCH) for al­ter­na­tive medicine. Higher ed­u­ca­tion reg­u­la­tor UGC has listed IBAM as a “fake univer­sity” on its web­site. MCI, which gives the ap­provals for med­i­cal cour­ses such as bach­e­lors of medicine, surgery etc, says IBAM has no au­thor­ity to award any med­i­cal qual­i­fi­ca­tion. CCH hasn’t ap­proved IBAM cour­ses in ho­moeopa­thy ei­ther.

And CCIM, which sets stan­dards for teach­ing Ayurveda, Sid­dha, Unani and Sowa Rigpa, says that IBAM’s cour­ses don’t con­form to their stan­dards. “Doc­tors pro­duced by IBAM are in­com­pe­tent and a risk to peo­ple’s lives, but no gov­ern­ment au­thor­ity has taken any ac­tion against it,” al­leges Ved Prakash Tyagi, pres­i­dent, CCIM. “They prac­tice in ru­ral ar­eas where peo­ple are not so lit­er­ate to ques­tion their qual­i­fi­ca­tions.” No ac­tion has been taken against the Board. As a mat­ter of fact, its web­site states it has sup­port from the Dalai Lama, Rev. Des­mond Tutu, Queen El­iz­a­beth II and UN sec­re­tary gen­er­als. “The Board’s con­fer­ences have been widely ac­claimed and at­tended by Mother Teresa, Union and state min­is­ters, chief jus­tices, judges and diplo­mats be­sides lead­ing lights in the field of health and medicine from over fifty coun­tries world­wide,” it says.

Speak­ing to this cor­re­spon­dent, Sushil Ku­mar Agar­wal, CEO of IBAM, says his in­sti­tute is reg­is­tered un­der the So­ci­ety Reg­is­tra­tion Act (An act for the reg­is­tra­tion of lit­er­ary, sci­en­tific and char­i­ta­ble so­ci­eties) and he doesn’t need ap­provals from reg­u­la­tory bod­ies.

How­ever, in In­dia, ed­u­ca­tion laws do not al­low a so­ci­ety reg­is­tered un­der the So­ci­ety Reg­is­tra­tion Act to grant de­grees. “Many fake in­sti­tutes mis­lead stu­dents by claim­ing to be reg­is­tered so­ci­eties, which gives the im­pres­sion that (such in­sti­tutes) are reg­is­tered bod­ies un­der the Act and so au­tho­rised to im­part ed­u­ca­tion,” says Tyagi.

Show­ing a let­ter to this cor­re­spon­dent, Agar­wal says “it has been is­sued by MCI on July 25, 1996. It says MCI doesn’t reg­u­late cour­ses in al­ter­na­tive medicine and it deals only with the mod­ern sci­en­tific sys­tem of medicine.” He, how­ever, does not ex­plain why he has not taken the req­ui­site per­mis­sions from CCIM or CIH for teach­ing al­ter­na­tive medicine.

Ag­grawal also claims that Cal­cutta High Court is scru­ti­n­is­ing IBAM’s va­lid­ity is­sue. “The court had passed an or­der of ‘sta­tus quo’ in favour of IBAM on July 23, 2003,” he says.

The au­then­tic­ity of Ag­gar­wal’s copy of the or­der could not be ver­i­fied on Cal­cutta High Court’s web­site. “The case was filed in 1996 that’s why it’s not on the web­site,” says Agar­wal. A check of the web­site, how­ever, re­veals de­tails of cases older than 1996.

When ques­tioned about the case and how it landed in Cal­cutta High Court, Agar­wal said, “As the mat­ter is sub-ju­dice in the High Court, it will not be proper for me to make any fur­ther com­ments.”

Some of the de­gree and post de­gree cour­ses which IBAM teaches in the reg­u­lar and cor­re­spon­dence mode in­clude bach­e­lor of al­ter­na­tive med­i­cal sys­tem (BASM), mas­ter’s in psy­chother­apy and coun­selling (MPC), doc­tor of natur­opa­thy/nat­u­ral medicine (ND/NMD), doc­tor of ori­en­tal medicine (OMD), doc­tor of science in al­ter­na­tive medicines – DSc (AM). The nomen­cla­ture of these de­grees do not con­form with de­grees ap­proved by the UGC.

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