The Union Ministry of Ayush has put a two-year freeze on approvals to open new Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy (ASU and H) medical colleges in the country. The decision will affect all applications for starting new ASU and H colleges during the academic year 2019-20 and 2020-21.
The move has come as a surprise to the alternative medical education field. It was only recently that the Central government announced an ambitious plan to set up Ayush medical colleges in each district of the country. Union Minister of State for Ayush Shripad Naik had also promised Rs. 12-crore financial support for each of these institutions.
However, many of the recent reforms in the Ayush education sector remain a job half-done and need time and effort to put into practice.
According to official sources, the freeze period will be utilised to implement reforms and new procedures to promote quality and transparency in existing Ayush educational institutions.
The ministry won’t accept fresh applications for starting new colleges and has directed the state governments and universities not to issue no-objection certificates or consent of affiliation during the mentioned time. The decision will be reviewed only after the two-year freeze period.
The government has been tweaking norms to promote education and research in traditional systems of medicine. The new initiatives include National Eligibility Entrance Test for admission to all Ayush educational institutions for undergraduate and post-graduate courses, Ayush National Teachers Eligibility Test to select qualified teachers and an Aadhar-based geo-location enabled attendance system for teaching and non-teaching staff, hospital employees and postgraduate students. However, many of these plans are still in conceptual stage and may take time to crystalise.
For the academic year 2018-19, the ministry has revised the time frame to fast-track the permission process for opening new Ayush colleges. Henceforth, applications under 12A of Homoeopathy Central Council Act 1973 and 13A of Indian Medicine Central Council Act should reach the government for approval between July 1 and August 31 of any year. The government should forward eligible applications to Central Council of Homeopathy or Central Council of Indian Medicine for technical scrutiny by September 30. The councils should provide its recommendations by March 31 and the ministry will arrive at a final decision by May 31.
With the central government’s renewed focus on traditional systems of medicine, the Ayush sector is on a growth trajectory. According to official data, the number of people practising alternative systems of healing is on the rise in the country. Naik had told Lok Sabha recently that in the past two years there has been about 5 per cent increase.
India, with a wealth of 6,600 medicinal plants, is the second largest exporter of Ayush and herbal products in the world. According to various surveys, the Ayush industry is estimated to touch Rs. 1.4 trillion by 2020 and might grow in double digits by providing direct employment to one million and indirect jobs to 25 million by 2020.