Indian doctors have criticized a decision by the northern state of Haryana to administer a herbal remedy to Covid-19 patients. There is no proof that the remedy, designed by a popular yoga guru, has any effect on coronavirus.
The announcement of the decision by health authorities in Haryana has faced a fierce backlash among practitioners of modern medicine across the country. The remedies have been designed by yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, and are manufactured by his company, Patanjali Ayurved.
On Monday, the state’s Health Minister Anil Vij said: “[100,000] Patanjali Coronil kits will be distributed free of cost among the Covid patients in Haryana. Half of the cost of Coronil has been borne by Patanjali and half by [the] Haryana government’s Covid Relief Fund.”
The so-called ‘Coronil kits’ contain three Ayurvedic remedies, namely Swasari Vati, Anu Taila and Coronil pills. The latter, a medicine containing three herbs, was unveiled by the guru last June and advertised as a miraculous cure for coronavirus. However, no scientific proof has ever been provided to support such claims.
Ayurveda, an alternative medicine system, is widely practiced in India, partly due to lack of universal access to more modern treatments. It is effectively a combination of spiritual and medical practices, aimed at keeping the body, mind and spirit in balance to prevent illnesses rather than treat them.
Haryana’s announcement has angered practitioners of modern medicine in India, who rushed to condemn the state authorities.
“You lower your guard thinking you’re protected in some way, but I think real harm can be caused by giving people a false sense of security,” said Lancelot Pinto, a consultant pulmonologist at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai.
Ajay Khanna, state secretary of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) in Uttarakhand, where Patanjali is headquartered, said that the move had seriously damaged the reputation of the state’s healthcare system.
“If the Haryana government is doing this, then it is their loss,” Khanna told Reuters.
Haryana’s announcement came days after Ramdev launched a vicious attack on modern medicine, claiming it has caused thousands of deaths among coronavirus patients. He also mocked the oxygen shortages experienced by many hospitals across India as they continue to battle a devastating second wave of Covid-19, arguing that patients’ lungs can easily be restored through yoga.
“God has given us free oxygen, why don’t we breathe that? How can there be a shortage when God has filled the atmosphere with oxygen? Fools are looking for oxygen cylinders. Just breathe the free oxygen. Why are you complaining about shortage of oxygen and beds and crematoriums?” he said.
The guru withdrew his remarks after being scolded by multiple officials, including India’s health minister. Still, he renewed his assault on modern medicine on Monday, raising questions why it still does not have cures for many diseases.
The ongoing controversy has been deliberately sparked by the guru, Vij alleged, accusing Ramdev of staging a PR stunt to peddle his remedies.
“He is more of a businessman than anything else. To sell his product, he has sparked a fight between allopathic medicine and ayurveda,” Vij said.
Baba Ramdev is an extremely popular yoga guru, boasting a large army of followers. His Twitter, that has more than 2.4 million subscribers, is littered with assorted videos purported to show cases of miraculous curing of assorted extreme conditions, including cancer, achieved through the ayurvedic practices.
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