J&K has enormous potential to produce medicinal plants: Dir AYUSH

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Jammu and Kashmir being a Himalayan region is known for its great diversity of species. Medicinal plants are marketed as raw materials as well as processed products. These have provided an important source of income for the communities living in the region, especially in Kashmir.

To learn about recent advances in plant science, the use of herbal health products in J&K, Director AYUSH, Jammu and Kashmir, Dr Mohan Singh in an interview with Rising Kashmir’s Health correspondent Pair Mansour, talks about herb gardens, the potential of medicinal plants in the mountains and their role in job creation.

What is the potential of medicinal plants in Jammu and Kashmir?

J&K has enormous potential to produce high altitude medicinal plants. The demand for medicinal plants is always high in the industry, not only in India but also abroad. J&K being a high altitude area, we have all the high altitude species growing here.

Basically, we don’t have an organized system for growing these plants and supplying them. Once a farmer grows a plant, he needs a micro processing unit. But we are looking for an end to end solution and have improved the Ayush business at J&K.

What is Ayush doing to encourage the cultivation of medicinal plants?

We are implementing two programs through the Medicinal Plants Council of Jammu and Kashmir. One is under conservation of medicinal plants. Within the framework of conservation, we generally take into consideration the forestry department to opt for in-situ and ex-situ conservation to save these medicinal plants in the forests. In the conservation part, we are also developing herb gardens.

Now we have a new proposal to develop home herb gardens to promote common household medicinal plants for home herbal remedies. In this regard, we have presented a proposal to the Indian government. We take a thousand households from the Jammu and Kashmir division.

Tell us something about the school herb gardens you started?

We also promote herb gardens in schools. The Kashmir School Education Authority already has around 100 school herb gardens sponsored by the Union government and recommended by the J&K Medicinal Plants Board.

We have over 300 species of medicinal plants in UT of Jammu and Kashmir. In Kashmir division, we have selected clusters of Kulgam, Kupwara, Ganderbal, Shopian for farmer empowerment through herbal plants.

You are developing herb gardens in Ayush hospitals. How do you do this?

We are developing Ayush health and wellness centers where we provide all facilities like yoga, panchkarma, Ayurvedic and unani medicines and treatments. In these centers we develop herb gardens, which is one of the obligatory elements of the centers. The herb gardens are intended to promote medicinal plants in the locality not only for medicinal purposes, but also to promote commercial scale.

Explain cash cultivation and the role of farmers?

We encourage farmers to grow cash crops because we also need to save the forests. Our forests cannot last long. They can’t give us these herbal remedies for long. We have also identified 161 hectares of land through J&K. The proposal has been submitted to the Indian government for funding. We also identified clusters in almost all districts. Thanks to this, we can generate employment opportunities.

What’s the update on the High Altitude Medicinal Plants Institute in Baderwah?

We are establishing the High Altitude Medicinal Plant Institute in Baderwah in Doda District which will be a high altitude Medicinal Plant research institute. It is a 100 crore project that has been approved. Work has started on some components.

This institute will serve farmers down to research level. It is the first high altitude medicinal plant institute in the Indian subcontinent. We also submitted a DRP in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine J&K. This has also been submitted to the Government of India for approval.

In Baderwah, we are setting up a nursery that will provide quality plant material to farmers and producers. We are also developing seed germplasm centers which will provide quality seeds to farmers and institutes.

We are also developing marketing and storage mandis as well as sheds for medicinal plants. Thus, a farmer will have a complete set-up, as he will get the planting material, seeds and even marketing.

Wherever we have a group of farmers who grow medicinal plants, we will provide them with micro processing units of a specific species of medicinal plants to transform them. They can opt for the added value of these medicinal plants. They can trade it the same way. This is aimed at conserving J & K’s herbal medicines and will also generate employment as well as income.

What is the role of AYUSH in the Covid-19?

Our employees like doctors and paramedics worked side by side during Covid-19. Immunity-boosting drugs have played a typical role in the control of Covid-19 and for the post-clinical management of Covid patients.

How do Ayush hospitals in rural areas operate during the pandemic?

Most of our institutions are at the primary level, in remote and inaccessible areas. Ayush clinics are mostly located in remote locations. Our employees outside of daily work organized awareness camps in the community where people were given immunity boosting drugs.

They also received medication for coughs, sneezes, throat infections, and respiratory tract infections (RTIs). We also distributed health supplements like iron, calcium which helped boost immunity. We also donated home remedies for Covid and other illnesses.

How do Ayush hospitals treat isolated patients at home?

Our people delivered Covid kits to people’s doors with help from the community. Even today we get calls from people asking for immunity boosting drugs. Covid made Ayush more relevant because when there was no cure, traditional medicine systems worked better. Even the WHO has certified that Ayush drugs have more benefits for boosting immunity.

What was the role of ancient medicines during the Covid?

We have taken on projects from the government of India to do research on certain drugs. The study found that a patient would recover from Covid within a week after taking Ayush medication. This is documented with us. It is not hearsay.

What has improved in your department since the start of Covid-19?

The Ayush ministry of the Indian government authorized the start-up of a group of 60 students at Unani Medical College in Ganderbal. We have spent a lot of funds donated by the Indian government and the J&K government. We have hired manpower for the proper functioning of the medical school. The Unani system has been relaunched in J&K. We have also made improvements to Akhnoor Ayurvedic College of Medicine, Jammu.

You have started to upgrade the dispensaries. What has been done in this regard?

All Ayush dispensaries, numbering 571, have been gradually transformed into Aysuh health and wellness centers. Out of 571, approval covers 194. Out of 194, at least 170 are operational and have been upgraded. These will provide comprehensive primary health care according to Ayush principles. Yoga is an additional component in these centers. There we will cultivate locally grown herbs and plants for the treatment of the public and educate people on home remedies.

In secondary level care, there are five integrated Ayush hospitals (50 beds each) which have been upgraded to fill this gap in manpower and infrastructure.

Out of five hospitals, we have started construction work on three hospitals. In about a year, we will be able to establish these integrated Ayush hospitals.

Today our nomenclature has changed with the Covid. We will also be creating herb nurseries; one in Gurez (high altitude) and another in the subtropical district of Samba. So with this we will be able to provide seeds and plants to farmers.

There is a lack of manpower in the department. How do you take it?

There is a labor shortage but, in the meantime, we are projecting it to the government for the creation of positions. In one year, we added almost 100 people. The ISM was supplemented and completed by the National Ayush Mission. By virtue of this, we have hired people in Jammu and Kashmir. At the district level, we have added manpower.

Approval has been given to add an additional 50 Ayush Doctors for remote and inaccessible areas through NAM. We have nearly 250 clinics run alone. We have foreseen all the manpower problems. We also discussed the issue of paramedical staff shortage with the JKSSB.


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