On March 3, Mizoram Health Minister Dr. R Lalthangliana spoke to a crowd of government employees and media persons at Dawrpui Multipurpose Center in Aizawl on the important role played by the ‘Ayush’ sector in the fight against Covid-19 in the state.

The minister said, “The assistance rendered by Ayush is one of the strongest factors behind the successful fight against the Covid-19 pandemic during the last two years. You may already know that Mizoram has the lowest Covid-19 mortality rate in the country – 0.01% fatality compared with other parts of the country. We are comparatively low. So not only has this been possible through the services provided by more than 80 Ayush doctors who volunteered to care for Covid-19 patients, the provision of Ayush medicine to about 5 lakh people also helped towards strengthening the mental and physical resistance of people against Covid-19.”

Lalthangliana was speaking at a programme held to lay the foundation stone of three 50-bedded Ayush hospitals, three 10-bedded Ayush hospitals and 24 Health and Wellness Centers across the state.

Union Minister of Ayush and former Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had flown in to Mizoram for the programme.  

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The Ayush ministry was introduced in Mizoram in 2001. At present, there is one integrated Ayush Hospital in Thenzawl, Serchhip district, which is being utilized as a Covid-19 care center.

According to the health ministry’s website, more than 80 Ayush doctors volunteered during the Covid-19 outbreak. It also mentions that the state currently has 62 Ayush doctors employed with the government. 

In his keynote address, the Union minister said, “I am very happy that some of the important projects on the part of the Government of India is going to be in association with the government of Mizoram….50-bedded hospitals foundation stone is to be laid and more than 25 numbers of health and wellness centers are to be inaugurated and also 10 bedded hospitals are also going to be started soon. So these are the infrastructure facility of the Ministry of Ayush that is starting in the state and will create lot of good facilities for the people.”

“To make India self-reliant, we have to make Mizoram self-reliant. In a short span, Mizoram will be the most attractive state,” Sonowal said amidst applause. 

Away from the jubilation and applause over the initiatives of laying foundation stones for health and wellness centers as well as 6 new Ayush hospitals, doctors from the state’s government hospitals have mixed feeling about it.

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According to Hospital Statistics 2020-2021, prepared by the Directorate of Hospital and Medical Education, Mizoram has 15 government hospitals with a bed strength of 1, 267 to cater to a population of over one million. This includes 9 district hospitals, two civil hospitals, a state referral hospital, a cancer institute, a 50 bedded hospital in the state capital and the Integrated Ayush hospital in Thenzawl. There are 27 private hospitals in the state with a bed strength of 1,749. 

“The question is while there are so many villages that do not have a single MBBS doctor, is it the best time to set up Ayush hospitals?” questioned Lalrinhlui (name changed on request), a government doctor from Lunglei district.  

“But if the central government is doing it, then who are we to stop it? I think India is trying too hard to promote Ayush but states such as ours do have many Ayush doctors and it is a good job opportunity for them. There is a good as well as bad side to it. Many people have studied this course and they cannot find jobs, so it is a good chance for them. But is the promotion of the Ayush ministry in the best interest of the public?” the doctor questioned.

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Another government doctor, Zosangliana* who serves in one of the rural villages of Lawngtlai District in South Mizoram, believes that it will be a good source of income for the state government. “Some contractors and laborers will get rich in the process. There will be small benefits. These centers will come up with fake reports, and the state will receive more money. It is just another programme.”

“We want more development in the primary health centers but we can’t influence the government,” the doctor lamented.

“It does not matter what we think because the central government prioritizes Ayush ministry. It is a central scheme and there is a lot of money involved. We just have to give priority to what the central government prioritizes. Our health center needs a lot of repairs and we are understaffed. But we have heard that we will receive aid from the World Bank to buy what we need,” he said.  

On the other side of the spectrum are Ayush doctors, who have been serving under much pressure and public mistrust.

An Ayush doctor, Lalsangliani*, who is currently employed under the government, told EastMojo, “Our seniors suffered a lot because of this but we are in a better position. Initiatives have been taken by the directorate and the situation is much better, but we need more awareness  measures.”

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She strongly believes the initiative to introduce Ayush hospitals is good because many Ayush doctors in the state are in need of employment. She believes more awareness measures need to be taken about the importance of Ayush in Mizoram.

The Ayush minister believes the two practices of traditional and modern medicine could work together simultaneously. At a press interaction held after the programme, in response to a question by EastMojo on the possibility of traditional practices of medicine taking over modern practices, he said, “One point is very clear, the honorable Prime Minister has directed both the ministries to work together. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Ayush… because our goal is the same, for the preservation of human health, prevention of disease.”

“As we are fighting for the cause of the people, as we are fighting for the prevention of disease and preservation of health, so that is why we have to work together and this integration will be taken to the grassroots level. We can develop this choice for the people; both the systems will be available in our network in our infrastructure,” the minister added.     

Thansanga*, a senior government doctor who has served for over 10 years in different villages across the state, agreed with the minister to a certain extent.

He said, “Ayush is a different department and even though it is under the health department, it has a separate budget. There is one Ayush hospital in Thenzawl now and they have not had much patients to admit so far. But it is being used as a Covid-19 care center, so they are making some use of it. The central government prioritizes upgrading homeopathy and there is a lot of money in this sector. There are Ayush buildings in every Community Health Center and since Ayush does not have sufficient manpower or patients to occupy the center, the hospitals and health centers make use of it. While it is Ayush money, there is a benefit for hospitals as well.” 

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