Indian System of Medicine (ISM) has been devised to supplement regular allopathic medical service in the country. This has been done keeping in view the widespread popularity of Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine which have been practiced in our country for hundreds of years. We have huge corpus of original medical works in these two branches, and we have also families of Ayurvedic and Unnapractitioners who have maintained the tradition for so many generations without break. This is also true of our State. While Unani medicine was common in Kashmir, Ayurvedic medicine was well established in Jammu region and Ladakh had its own system which was more or less close to Tibetan medical practice.
After independence, both Ayurvedic and Unani systems jointly called Indian System of Medicine, received full patronage and support from the Government. When these were institutionalized, the system was expected to supplement the normal medical system in our hospitals and medical colleges. The purpose was to (a) popularise ISM as one that left little rather no side and after effects and (b) it was considered to cure the root cause of an ailment and not treat it cursorily. Thus with the passage of time the ISM got firmly institutionalized and practiced. The thinking in relevant Government quarters was that our rural population feels more comfortable and satisfied with the ISM just either because of tradition or history. With this concept, doctors and medical practitioners were churned out from various institutions and recruited by the State Health Department for service essentially in rural areas where allopathic medicine had not had access so far.
But unfortunately the real idea behind the setting up of hospitals and dispensaries of ISM in rural areas was defeated by very irrational policy of the Government. According to reports that have come to us, we find that most of the doctors in these lines are posted in urban areas, especially in the cities of Srinagar and Jammu. Frequent transfers of doctors to the cities have left no fewer than 120 ISM institutions defunct for want of doctors and paramedical staff. Obviously, the incumbents wield political influence or they avoid being deputed to any rural dispensary or health centre.
This is the old malaise with the Health Department of our State. Doctors and paramedical functionaries with political clout and manoeuvrability get posting according to their choice and those medical practitioners bereft of political and social influence remain pegged to rural dispensaries and hospitals for unending period of time. The Heads of ISM hospitals, dispensaries and health centres have invariably written to higher authorities to provide substitutes when any doctor is transferred but it seems that they are in league with other malevolent or selfish elements who manage things through right or wrong resources. The result is that hospitals and health centres left with very insignificant number of medical experts are unable to deliver and people in villages suffer.
This is a matter of grave concern to the people of the villages where the dispensaries have become defunct for want of doctors or paramedical staff or medicines and equipment. As a result around 120 Indian System of Medicine (ISM) institutions including hospitals and dispensaries are defunct in rural and far flung areas of the State. What a tremendous loss and discomfort to the people of these far flung villages of the State? In Jammu division, there are 314 ISM institutions with only 225 doctors posted in them. These doctors are mostly posted in Jammu city, leaving 99 institutions in rural and far flung areas of the division defunct. There are 59 ISM institutions where more than 80 doctors have been posted and even three institutions – ISM Dispensary HP Sidhar, Aghore and Bari Brahmana are defunct. The situation in the Valley is no better.
We feel that either there is a conspiracy of locking the doors of ISM institutions and vested interest does not want such hospitals to flourish, or there is actual shortage of doctors who can be posted to the rural areas. This is a chronic issue and we have taken it up several times for thrashing it out in the public domain. The sordid situation of ISM institutions, hospitals and dispensaries in the State is a glaring proof of inefficiency of the Health Department which, as the situation suggests, has been turned into something like a private fief where workers are placed, replaced or sidelined according to the sweet will of the landlord.