As president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, I refer to your cover story Ayurveda in the Time of Corona (March 29). It is easy to claim curative or preventive properties for any concoction when the survival rate of the infected is 98 per cent. Like many other viral diseases, Covid is self-limiting in most people and causes problems only for those with co-morbidities. For most of the infected, body immunity is what protects and heals. Yet, someone from Bangalore even claimed his product would prevent or cure Covid as it was a broad-spectrum anti-viral! Concoctions were marketed with names like Coronil and Corwin as people were expected to believe that the names would be descriptive of their properties. Now, with vaccines coming in, we can expect new concoctions with names like Coroboost and claims of increasing the efficiency of vaccines too! In a country ruled by an irrational cabal with an inferiority complex that makes them make tall claims of ancient glories, such is to be expected—even though P.R. Krishnakumar, one of the top signatories of the Ayush ministry’s Covid prevention, cure and post-recovery protocol, succumbed to the virus. If Ayurvedic specialists could not save one of their own using their concoctions, how can they claim that they work? In fact, when Ayush minister Shripad Nayak got infected (was he not taking all these magical ingredients with protective powers?), he was admitted to a hospital that administers mainstream medicine.
Narendra Nayak, Mangalore
Allopathy is the only scientifically proven healthcare system supported by the latest modern technology. As the facilities available are far less than the requirement, access is so expensive that 90 percent of the people cannot afford it. The doctor-patient ratio is abysmal. Doctors, other personnel and infrastructure cannot be multiplied overnight. Setting up medical colleges with good faculty needs long-term planning and huge expenditure. Government hospitals don’t enjoy the confidence of the public. In such a scenario, all healthcare systems, including Ayurveda, Unani and homeopathy, should function with full cooperation, seeing themselves as complementary to each other instead of superior or inferior. Practitioners of the alternative systems should strive to improve their standards of knowledge and practices instead of making fantastic claims. We should be proud that our kitchens in every home are also well-stocked Ayurveda pharmacies, with the knowledge of grannies’ prescriptions for common day-to-day ailments passed on from generation to generation.
M.N. Bharatiya, Alto-Porvorim (Goa)
The challenge posed by coronavirus is unprecedented and healthcare systems all over the world are under intense pressure. As modern pharmaceutical companies work overtime to fine-tune the vaccine against the deadly virus, our native system of medicine, Ayurveda, is also being aggressively pitched as a panacea for Covid by claiming it has solutions to raise immunity—our body’s multilevel defence network to guard us against potentially harmful virus and bacteria. Ayurveda, a portmanteau of ‘Ayur’ (life) and ‘veda’ (knowledge), originated in ancient India and focuses on building the strength of body and mind to cope with various infections. The classic Ayurvedic text Charakasamhita mentions epidemics and the need for good immunity—both innate and acquired—to fight disease. Their logic is simple: germs are everywhere, but only those with poor immunity are susceptible to infection. However, despite a wealth of anecdotal and written knowledge, Ayurveda has not subjected itself to the rigour of science. Its medicines have never been tested in sizeable clinical trials—the bottom line of any evidence-—based science. Even if it is assumed that Ayurveda is more holistic, the way it individualises treatment lends it a tentativeness that doesn’t inspire instant confidence. Caught as we are in a massive Covid churn, allopathy, with its focus on constant research, validation and modern diagnostic tools, seems to be a better ‘interpreter of maladies’.
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
Baba Ramdev’s claim that Coronil—a brand developed by his firm Patanjali—is a panacea for all things Covid at a time when the coronavirus had taken a toll of millions of lives across the globe was strange and rather humorous. Ayurveda has been practised in India for centuries and, even though it is unable to provide relief to patients as quickly as allopathic treatment, a large number of people still prefer it in order to avoid the side-effects of allopathic drugs. Bringing together the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Ayush ministry in a joint quest to scientifically validate classical Ayurvedic products and promote collaborative research was a good initiative to explore the vast possibilities offered by alternative systems of treatment.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to the column by Lt Gen Subrata Saha (retd) on the genocide of Bengalis by Pakistan and the subsequent liberation of Bangladesh (1971: War on Mass Murder, March 29). The column reminds us of the gallant victory of our armed forces over Pakistan, besides recalling painful memories of atrocities committed by Pakistan’s military forces over the peoples of erstwhile East Pakistan to prevent Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League from taking power after winning the December 1970 general elections. Martial law was enforced to legitimise a reign of state terror. Millions were massacred and thousands raped, causing a massive exodus from East Pakistan. We cannot forget these atrocities on the human race.
D.B. Madan, New Delhi
This refers to The Third Dimension (March 29). Until the 2016 assembly elections, the DMK and the AIADMK were being alternately elected to power in Tamil Nadu. Now, with tall leaders like K. Karunanidhi and J. Jayalalitha out of the picture, the elections assume an altogether different significance with three smaller parties (total vote share of around 12 per cent) joining the fray. They will certainly cut the votes of both the Dravidian parties even as a war of words continues between M.K. Stalin of the DMK and CM Edappadi K. Palaniwami of the AIADMK over issues like corruption. At a time when parties need to make more room than ever for innovation and new ideas, all of them are seen stooping to new lows to win the polls by hook or by crook, making tall promises that are difficult to keep. However, given the state’s highly fragmented electorate, where a swing of a couple of percentage points makes all the difference, the outcome cannot be foretold in the present scenario.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
This refers to Women Redefining Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a Covid-19 World (March 15). Thank you for the inspiring stories about women achievers that truly capture various shades of challenges and how women overcome them to emerge on the top in a predominantly male-dominated society. Women may have broken the shackles of male dominance in some spheres of human endeavour, but the continuing dearth of women in politics highlights the gravity of the problem. The women’s reservation bill has been languishing in Parliament for decades despite tall claims. Under-representation of women in Parliament and state legislatures is a major hindrance for the progress of democracy, which depends on equitable access and representation of women in the political landscape. Successive governments have garnered votes by promising adequate representation and empowerment to women, but have failed people’s expectations. Political rhetoric must give way to concrete steps in the direction of women’s empowerment if equality is to become a reality.
Vijay Singh Adhikari, Nainital