MUMBAI (TOI): The state government’s recent proposal seeking to allow non-allopathy doctors to practise modern medicine after a one-year course in pharmacology has stirred a hornet’s nest. The proposal comes at a time when Maharashtra has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of ayurveda and homeopathy colleges in the country. For every doctor practising allopathy in the state, there are two practising ayurveda and homeopathy.
Experts say the state’s move is intended to attract more students towards private ayurveda and homeopathy colleges, most of which are running courses with empty classrooms and negligible jobs to offer. Else, the state may have very little to explain why the urgent need to boost modern medicine and produce more allopathy doctors was conveniently overlooked. These numbers could probably put things into perspective. There are roughly 90,000 registered practitioners of modern medicine in the state, but 80,000 ayurveda, 58,000 homeopathy and over 5,000 unani doctors. In short, every third doctor in the state has graduated in one of the alternative systems of medicine.
Further, data compiled by the central government’s department of ayurveda, unani, siddha, yoga & naturopathy and homeopathy (AYUSH) in 2011 had underlined the fact that Maharashtra is home to 15.78% AYUSH doctors, highest in the country, even ahead of Uttar Pradesh. That has 14.09% non-allopathic practitioners. A senior AYUSH official told TOI, “Maharashtra has always been ahead in the race to start more private colleges and the demand for colleges is ever-increasing. The demand quite obviously is from the private sector.”
Till date, Maharashtra has 63 ayurveda colleges, of which only four are government-run. The story is quite similar for homeopathy. Of 184 colleges across the country, the state had 43 colleges, which came up in quick succession in the past few years. Interestingly, all homeopathy colleges in the state are privately owned. Head of the Directorate of Medical Education, Dr Pravin Shingare, said the state has not felt the demand to start a homeopathy college.
Intriguingly however, the private sector seems to have felt a pressing demand for the same. Between January and July, the Directorate of Ayurveda has already received proposals for four new homeopathy colleges and one ayurveda college, besides applications from 16 colleges to increase undergraduate and postgraduate seats.
State secretary of Indian Medical Association Dr Jayesh Lele blamed the state for creating the imbalance and doing little to encourage allopathic practitioners. The 7,000-odd ayurveda and homeopathy seats on offer every year quite easily outnumber the existing pool of 4,000-odd MBBS seats. “There are hardly any checks and balances to ensure that only good institutions come up. The norms laid down for starting an ayurveda or homeopathy college are not half as stringent as those demanded of allopathy colleges,” he said.
Shingare, too, accepted that the growth in the field of allopathy is largely restricted by financial factors. “A minimum Rs 300 crore corpus is required to start a medical college for allopathy whereas one can start a homeopathy or ayurveda college with less than Rs 100 crore,” he said. He said many students opt for alternative medicine thinking of it as a backdoor entry to practise allopathy. “We are aware of it. But the fact that they reach out to 50% of Maharashtra can’t be completely disregarded,” he said. Shingare said the state was working towards starting three new medical colleges and adding 300 MBBS seats.