Dr. Harsh Vardhan, India’s health minister has already found himself at the centre of two controversies and been forced to issue clarifications to clear the air. His views on promoting ‘Indian culture’ over condom usage to prevent AIDS and banning ‘the so-called sex education’ attracted flak from all corners. His clarifications, however raised more eyebrows as he stated that fidelity was still the best way to prevent AIDS and only such sex education that was not ‘vulgar’ and “culturally acceptable” could be accepted.
Dr Vardhan’s website, which features his views and vision statements on a range of issues, periodically harks back to ancient India as the solution for all ills. Some of his views on what he envisages as ideals to strive for in various spheres (made when he was in the running for the Delhi chief ministership) :
Education: “The so called ‘sex education’ has to be banned. Yoga needs to be made compulsory….Four pillars suggested by the Kothari commission in 1967 – patriotism, health care, social consciousness and spirituality to be made part and parcel of the Delhi school education system”
Vision for Healthcare: It is here that Dr. Vardhan’s penchant for culture and values is most apparent, with mild disdain of modern medicine, promotion of a vegetarian diet, spirituality and celibacy remaining the key goals to achieve:
“Our ancestors figured out that physical health can only be reinforced by strengthening psychological and spiritual health…Modern scientists have failed to appreciate that our noble fore-fathers with far less material possessions could generate energy and vitality to protect their physical and mental health by practicing spirituality whereas the people of developed and rich countries today remain highly stressed and in poor health despite much affluence and wealth…Our health planners overlooked the age-old Indian wisdom to promote borrowed ideas and promoted only one system of medicine, the so-called modern medicine, which itself has failed to ensure availability of healthcare to everyone in most affluent nations despite a whopping increase in health sector spending…We need to have a broader, more comprehensive and integrated approach which should recognize and make use of our age old wisdom, practices and societal beliefs..Their biggest observation was that vegetarian food consumption is associated with a longer life and lesser affliction by degenerative diseases. This fact is now universally accepted and even scientists approve this fact…A serious effort is required to explain the strength of spiritual aspects of healing to modern practitioners and it calls for a new approach so that healthcare providers inculcate and adopt this.”
As he sums it up, he has the following recommendations among others which ‘hold the key’ (to good health):
“Aahar, Nidra, Brahmcharya deserve emphasis;Be a Vegetarian; Abstain from Alcohol; Abstain from Tobacco; Control over Desires; Observe Celibacy”
Ancient India has presumably, the biggest opportunity to make a comeback now.
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