New Delhi: Traditional alternative systems of medicine—Ayush—are becoming popular across the country as people find them more natural, with low cost and less chances of side effects adding to their attraction. As a result of this increasing demand, the number of Ayush doctors has gone up gradually and in six states, their number has even surpassed their MBBS counterparts. It is to be noted that Ayush consists of traditional streams like ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy.

According to latest figures of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there are 11.59 lakh registered allopathy doctors, whereas this number has reached to 7.88 lakh doctors for Ayush streams (figures of only Ayurveda, Unani and Homoeopathy).

As per the figures, the number of Ayush doctors has surpassed their MBBS counterparts in six states. These states are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Telangana. In Bihar, for example, there are 40,849 MBBS doctors, whereas the number of Ayush doctors is 136,470. Similarly, in UP, there are 77,549 MBBS doctors, but this number is 85,489 for Ayush doctors.

The government is trying to modernise the Ayush hospitals and increase the number of doctors in them. It is also modernising postgraduate Ayush medical colleges. While Rs 53,000 crore has been provided for the Ministry of Health, Rs 1,686 crore has been provided for the Ministry of Ayush. At present, there are 30,897 standalone Ayush facilities (Ayush hospitals 3,893 and dispensaries 27,004) in the country. Seeing the current trend, the government has decided to set up 4,200 Ayush wellness centres in the country during the current financial year in order to encourage traditional systems of medicine. Giving importance to research in the sector, an MoU was signed between the Ministry of Ayush and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for its integration with modern science.

As per World Health Organization (WHO) norms, there should be one doctor for a population of 1,000. Considering only allopathy doctors, the current doctor-patient ratio in India is 1:1456, but if Ayush doctors are included, this ratio becomes 1:867.

Though the current trend is being welcomed by and large, there are apprehensions about Ayush doctors using allopathy medicine. According to an Indian Medical Association official, there have been instances when Ayush doctors prescribe allopathy medicines for quick relief to patients, which is illegal. The government needs to work out a monitoring mechanism to check such practices, he added.