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Ayurveda Delegation visits from India

A 6-member official delegation from the Department of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi visited Trinidad and Tobago from 2-5 November, 2011.  The delegation was led by Shri Anil Kumar Secretary (AYUSH) and included senior officials and experts on Ayurveda research and herbal plantation. The delegation called on Ministers of Health, Tourism and Foreign Affairs & Communications of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago; participated in a two day public event comprising of a Seminar and two workshops on Ayurveda and visited Tobago for a day where they attended meeting with the Chief Secretary and other senior officials of THA.  The visit succeeded in disseminating information on Ayurveda, apprising the T&T government and people of various facilities in India on education, research, practice and standards established in India on Ayurveda. The delegation also discussed various possibilities for cooperation in Ayurveda and herbal medicines.

2. The delegation accompanied by High Commissioner Shri Malay Mishra called on the Minister of Tourism Dr. Rupert Griffith on the morning of 2 November 2011. During discussions, Secretary (AYUSH) stated that Ayurveda, practiced in India for more than 5000 years, was a legally recognised, well codified and administered system – education and research in Ayurveda being fully standardized and regulated. The T&T Minister for Tourism showed good amount of interest in herbal medicine sector as well as medical-tourism and acknowledged Ayurveda as an alternative system of medicine. A suggestion was made in the meeting for setting up a Chair on Ayurveda at University of the West Indies. Secretary (AYUSH) welcomed the proposal and assured that it would be considered appropriately. The delegation mentioned about presence of Ayurveda products in Trinidad and Tobago brought in by Himalaya.  High Commissioner talked about the high-growth wellness tourism sector in India.  Minister Griffith mentioned about the interest shown by Apollo to collaborate on the traditional medicine in T&T.

3. The delegation thereafter called on Dr. Fuad Khan, the T&T Minister of Health.  Dr. Fuad Khan, a practicing allopathic doctor himself, took keen interest in the discussions on regulation, research, codification, teaching and practice of Ayurveda in India. Dr. Khan stated that though Ayurveda was a long-standing system, the T&T legislation presently did not support it.  Secretary(AYUSH) talked of Ayurveda at length mentioning the huge modern network of research supporting it – administered by a specialised Research Council for each discipline of traditional medicine, with 81 research centres based on the latest medical protocol, spread across India – far advanced, documented and codified. The system is governed by two parliamentary regulations.  India has specialised traditional institutions/hospitals, which far out-number allopathic institutions and hospitals, with full-length courses on Ayurveda (the 5.5-year BAMS course on Ayurveda having a 3-year common training with allopathic MBBS) with established code of ethics and registers for practitioners.

4. Dr. Fuad Khan said that he valued Ayurveda and ensured that his Ministry would do its best to introduce legislation to bring Ayurveda to T&T. Secretary (AYUSH) handed over copy of a standard draft MOU from the Government of India for cooperation on various aspects of Ayurveda practice, education and research with the Government of Trinidad & Tobago. The Minister was also given a copy of Indian legislation on Ayurveda and the traditional systems of medicine.  The delegation apprised the T&T Minister of WHO modules for doctors learning/practicing alternative medicine (including Ayurveda). Two WHO publications in this regard were handed over to the Minister.

5. High Commissioner suggested a step-by-step approach for Ayurveda in T&T.  To start with, collaboration between the two countries in medicinal plants should be a good idea. Dr. Ramsewak, Deputy Chairman of the Medical Board of T&T suggested that Ayurveda could be learnt as an additional input by allopathic medical practitioners. He however mentioned that for independent practice of Ayurveda in T&T, they would need proper regulation. Secretary (AYUSH) agreed with this and promised to share details of the Indian Ayurvedic system with the experts of T&T. Secretary (AYUSH) extended an invitation to the T&T Minister to visit India with an empowered delegation to see first-hand the level of education and training prevalent in Indian Ayurvedic institutions. The Minister asked for specialised short-term courses for practicing doctors. Secretary (AYUSH) promised to devise 3-month courses and offered scholarships to study full-term Ayurveda courses in Indian institutions. The AYUSH delegation offered India’s expertise to T&T in the field of research in herbal plants as well.

6. In the afternoon, members of the delegation visited Caribbean Herbal Medicine Research Institute, University of Trinidad & Tobago, Waterloo Road Campus and had a meeting with Professor Dr. Compton Seaforth.

7. The delegation accompanied by High Commissioner visited Tobago for a day on 3 November and met Mr. Orville London, Chief Secretary THA along with his team of officials. Secretary (AYUSH) informed the Chief Secretary and his team on traditional system of Ayurveda treatment with its wide research base particularly on medicinal plants. A short presentation on herbal plants was made by Mr. Bala Prasad, CEO of National Medicinal Plants Board. High Commissioner suggested cooperation with Tobago on medicinal plants and possibility of devising training programs by AYUSH on the subject. Chief Secretary THA expressed some concerns about efficacy of herbal medicines and questions about their credibility. Secretary (AYUSH) assured him of the quality of education and research in India as well as the legislation governing practice of Ayurveda. Chief Secretary THA inquired if AYUSH could do a study on some traditional plants in Tobago to which Secretary (AYUSH) responded positively. Secretary (AYUSH) invited a team from THA to India to see standards of Ayurveda education, research and practice in India. The AYUSH delegation visited the tropical forest of Tobago to see its flora. They were accompanied by forest department officials and Professor Yasmine Khan Comeau of UWI.

8. On their return from Tobago, the delegation attended a dinner hosted by Dr. Surujrattan Rambachan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Communications. The dinner was attended by Permanent Secretary of his Ministry and some other officials. Minister Rambachan took keen interest in Ayurveda and expressed hope to bring in Ayurveda as a recognised system of medicine in T&T. He expressed the hope for cooperation in teaching of Ayurveda in T&T/ institutional cooperation for setting up a chair at UWI or UTT on Ayurveda and introduction of short-term courses in Ayurveda for allopathic practitioners. He also expressed hope for cooperation in medicinal/herbal plants in T&T. These points were reiterated by the Minister in his inaugural speech to the Seminar on Ayurveda at Divali Nagar next day.

Seminar on Ayurveda

9. A two-day event was organised by the High Commission at Bisram Gopie Auditorium Annexe, Divali Nagar, Chaguanas on 4 -5 November 2011 with a Seminar and two workshops. The theme of the Seminar was: “Ayurveda – An Overall Perspective and Approach to Health and Disease”. A gathering of 200-strong audience attended the Seminar and the afternoon workshop on the first day.

10. The Seminar was divided into two sessions – Inaugural Main. Dr. Surujrattan Rambachan Minister for Foreign Affairs and Communications was the Chief Guest at the seminar and delivered the inaugural address. He indicated that he was a strong believer in Ayurveda which could also help in promotion of wellness tourism in T&T.  He encouraged members of the private sector to set up an Ayurvedic Centre in T&T. He related story of an Ayurveda doctor who accurately diagnosed his own son’s illness by merely feeling his pulse that strengthened his personal faith in Ayurveda system. The Minister mentioned about one Trinidadian doctor – Dr. Rita Pemberton, who in 2005 had stated that many prevalent practices in T&T conformed to those in Ayurveda practice saying that this underlined the need for this type of treatment to have a formal ground.

11. High Commissioner in his speech talked of integration of Yoga, which is gaining popularity in T&T, with Ayurvedic treatment. He also noted that over half of the medicinal plants in T&T were brought from India and mentioned that he had personally benefitted from Ayurveda.

12. Shri Anil Kumar, Secretary(AYUSH) made a strong presentation on Ayurveda by indicating that the delegation had come to T&T to address people’s concerns on Ayurveda. He sought to inform the audience of standardised practices adopted in India, extensive and well defined educational systems in place and the high quality of drugs, medicinal plants and doctors trained under the Ayurvedic system. Secretary (AYUSH) also informed the audience that Indian Government was spending over 10% of US $ 190 million budgeted for AYUSH on 81 research centres. He concluded by saying that the world was moving towards systems of medicines without excessive chemicals and Ayurveda was the preferred choice because it had neither harmful chemicals nor side effects.

13. The main session of the Seminar was chaired by Dr. Shivananda Nayak, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies. Two presentations were made in the session by members of the AYUSH delegation – Dr. D.C. Katoch on ‘Ayurveda – approach to health and disease’ and by Dr. Ramesh Babu Devalla on ‘Strengths and Potentials of Ayurveda in Clinical Medicine’.  The session also had presentations by two local experts, who despite being trained allopathic doctors, are also practitioners of Ayurveda.   Dr. Harry Ramnarine spoke on ‘Ayurveda- a Holistic Approach to Healing’ and Dr. Kanti Lal Khatri, a first generation Indian settled in T&T made an effective presentation on ‘Ayurveda as a mainstream for disease’. At the end there was a question & answer session where the audience participated actively.  The session ended with a sum-up of the proceedings by the Chairman.

Workshop I

14. The afternoon session was devoted to a workshop on ‘Scientific aspects and evidence based uses of Ayurveda’.  The session was chaired by Dr. Pooran Bridgemohan. Dr. Ramesh Babu Devalla from the delegation made a presentation on ‘ Evidence of Efficacy and Safety in Ayurveda’. This was followed by one by Dr. D.C. Katoch on ‘Ayurveda – way of managing lifestyle diseases’. Dr. Compton E. Seaforth from the University of Trinidad & Tobago (UTT) spoke on ‘Scientific Studies of Ayurvedic herbs’. These presentations were extremely informative and were well received by the audience. The questions from the audience also showed a good appreciation and interest from the people of T&T. The session ended with summing up remarks by the Chairman.

15. An exhibition on Ayurveda was simultaneously held on 4 -5 November in the foyer of the hall.  In the late afternoon of 4th November, the delegation paid a visit to the National Herbarium of T&T at University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus and met its Director, Prof. Yasmine Baksh- Comeau.

Workshop II

16. The next day also attracted good amount of interest from the people of T&T with a gathering of 135 people. Workshop II focused on medicinal plants under the title: “Ayurveda for sustainable development of medicinal plants”. The workshop was chaired by Mr. Vishnu Ramlogan a business analyst of repute. The first presentation was made by Mr. Bala Prasad, CEO, National Medicinal Plants Board on ‘India’s experience in Medicinal Plants sector and possibilities of collaboration’. This was followed by a presentation by Dr. Rabi Narayan Acharya, Associate Professor, Gujarat Ayurveda University on ‘Medicinal Plants for Self-reliant Health Care’. The other presentations were by Dr. Kumar Mahabir, Associate Professor and d Anthropologist at the University of Trinidad & Tobago on ‘Ayurveda and Traditional Indian Medicinal Plants in the Caribbean’ and Ms. Yasmine Baksh-Comeau on ‘The status of Flora in Trinidad and Tobago’. These were followed by a question and answer session and a summing- up by the Chairman.

17. In the end a wrap-up session was held on the outcome of the seminar and workshops. A number of useful suggestions/observations were made by the participating audience which included possible cooperation in setting-up of herbal farms, development of herbal farming for commercial purposes, setting-up of a herbal institute in T&T, difficulties in approval process by the Medical Board of T&T, inclusion of traditional systems under the health insurance cover and introduction of short-term Ayurvedic courses for allopathic practitioners. Some experiences of herbal treatment by the local people were also shared.

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