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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2023  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 55-59

Role of Government and Research Organizations in Rejuvenating and Re-affirming the value of Traditional Knowledge Systems – Ayush, as a Case in Point

CSIR-Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (CSIR-TKDL) Unit, 14, Satsang Vihar, New Delhi, India 110067, India

Date of Submission14-Apr-2023
Date of Acceptance17-Apr-2023
Date of Web Publication28-Apr-2023

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Viswajanani J Sattigeri
CSIR-Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (CSIR-TKDL) Unit, 14, Satsang Vihar, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jras.jras_95_23

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Traditional knowledge systems, though considered invaluable, present a complex subject matter. In the context of contemporary modern advancements, the disparity in recognition of these deep-rooted traditions and cultural expressions is a matter of serious concern. While deliberations are being held at various global forums, there has yet to be a consensus on binding legal interventions recognizing and respecting traditional knowledge and associated people’s rights. Nations continue to make efforts to bring in the required knowledge parity and equity. The Government of India’s efforts in traditional medicines, especially Ayush, can be seen as a positive example for others. Hon’ble Prime Minister of India appreciating the various aspects of Ayush health and envisions Ayush as an effective tool for global welfare. This unwavering focus of the Government towards promoting Ayush for global welfare can be found in the different “Mann ki Baat” episodes, an interactive platform of the Government with the citizens of India. The remarkable efforts of Ministry of Ayush (MoA) towards forging cooperation with national and international agencies and other stakeholders are the key drivers for boosting awareness, training, education, research and market expansion. The present article provides a brief account of the efforts in the country on this front.

Keywords: Traditional knowledge systems, CSIR, Ayush, Government of India, parity and equity

How to cite this article:
Sattigeri VJ. Role of Government and Research Organizations in Rejuvenating and Re-affirming the value of Traditional Knowledge Systems – Ayush, as a Case in Point. J Res Ayurvedic Sci 2023;7, Suppl S1:55-9

How to cite this URL:
Sattigeri VJ. Role of Government and Research Organizations in Rejuvenating and Re-affirming the value of Traditional Knowledge Systems – Ayush, as a Case in Point. J Res Ayurvedic Sci [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 Jun 8];7, Suppl S1:55-9. Available from: http://www.jrasccras.com/text.asp?2023/7/5/55/374517

  Introduction Top

India is home to an invaluable heritage of diverse traditions and cultures across various fields. This inheritance traverses time and regions and is still a “living” tradition in multiple domains while serving as a means of livelihood for a sizeable population in the country. However, in today’s world, where global leadership and a nation’s competitiveness are primarily based on an economy derived from modern technological advancements, traditional knowledge systems are generally not considered of value or “scientific” in nature.[1] Thus, countries depending on traditional livelihoods face high challenges, especially towards sustaining and maintaining the value of traditions and culture, while ensuring the nation’s competitiveness based on modern scientific and technological (S&T) fronts. The question, therefore, is how do countries manage this divide?

If one considers that the heritage of all countries is indeed valuable, why do several countries with rich traditions and cultures still need help to build gainfully on their ancient heritage? The subject needs greater attention and assessment at a global level. Very recently, in December 2022, the United States of America (USA) took action on including indigenous knowledge in Federal research, policy, and decision-making, and this is indeed a historic moment for the indigenous community.[2] The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a new government-wide guidance and an implementation memorandum for Federal Agencies on indigenous knowledge. Acknowledging that the “Guidance is one step towards successfully elevating Indigenous Knowledge as a common practice”, leaders and experts associated with indigenous knowledge also expressed that “Never before has humanity faced the confluence of crises we face. And never before has there been such a driving need to expand and diversify the kinds of evidence and knowledge we rely upon to make critical decisions to address them”.[3] Herein, it would not be out to place to state that India may be seen as a front-runner in balancing its socio-economic development through both traditional and contemporary innovations.

Fortunately for India and other similar countries, there have been long deliberations and changes in matters related to traditional knowledge systems, at a global level, in the last couple of decades. The inherent value and importance of biological/genetic diversity and associated traditional knowledge have received greater recognition, especially in due consideration of respecting people’s rights.[4] World bodies such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, and Convention on Biological Diversity, among others, have engaged with member states to draw global consensus and cooperation on matters related to partnership, exchange and mutual benefit in the context of sustainable use of genetic/biological resources, and associated traditional knowledge. Scientific progress over this period has also strongly supported the immense value that biological diversity and traditional knowledge can bring to nations, including a positive protection to such knowledge held by indigenous and local communities. Through these continuous efforts and initiatives worldwide, traditional knowledge systems have moved from being mere subject matters of misappropriation and misuse to being considered vital for nations achieving their UN-Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030.

Governments play an important role through national policies, structured frameworks and initiatives to deliver the SDGs. What is critical herein is how countries would enable an EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) based development that not only addresses the unmet needs of the custodians of traditional knowledge but enables their involvement in policy and decision-making. This calls for concerted actions on the SDGs, at both national and global levels, by promoting traditional knowledge as well as contemporary advancements as relevant support systems to aid in achieving extant and emerging developmental and economic needs.

The UN’s SDG#3 focuses on healthcare and targets ‘ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all ages.’ As per the World Health Organization (WHO), a large proportion of the global population use traditional and complementary medicines (TCM) from over 170 countries.[5] The WHO report further states that the TCM is an underestimated resource to meet the world’s healthcare needs and that TCM will play an important role in also achieving the stated SDG#3 goals. On this front, India’s strategies and initiatives to promote traditional medicine and healthcare practices deserve special attention and acknowledgement.[6] While multiple healthcare systems are officially recognized, India advocates a pluralistic approach. Herein, India also recommends an integrated approach for drawing synergy between traditional and modern medicine for better healthcare delivery and outcomes. The Ayush systems of medicine that cover Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Sowa Rigpa and Homeopathy stand unique. These traditional systems of medicine, health and wellness have been and are still offering immense benefits not only to the Indians but also to the global populace.

The success of establishing “Ayush” as a valid and relevant healthcare option lays its foundation not only in the versatility of the systems and expertise of the practitioners but also in the national policies and regulations that govern and promote this traditional knowledge. With the increasing adoption and usage of Ayush within India, the Govt. of India (GoI) is strongly focused at global reach and acceptance. To achieve this goal, India has carefully studied the challenges currently seen with these drugs and initiatives have been drawn to help overcome the issues and facilitate wider adoption. In recent years, India has therefore laid strong emphasis on standardization, validation and further innovation of traditional medicines. The article attempts to demonstrate how the GoI policies and initiatives are playing a vital role towards promoting Ayush as an appropriate, affordable, available, acceptable and accessible intervention, for addressing global healthcare and wellness needs, towards achieving SDG #3.

  The Initiatives Top

The vital role that traditional systems of medicine have in achieving the healthcare goals under SDG#3 is now well recognized. Thus, the Indian-origin Ayush systems shall be a valid healthcare option for people globally. In the last few years, India has implemented many first-of-its-kind initiatives related to Ayush, targeting global recognition and acceptance. These include launching the International Day of Yoga, setting up the first and only Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM) by the World Health Organization, and Ayush Information Cells in other countries to disseminate authentic information, among others.[7] The widespread and extensive use of Ayush interventions in the recent COVID-19 pandemic supports this belief. During this period, the Ayush interventions have been the subject of scientific, including clinical trials, not only in India but in many other countries as well.[7]

“Transparency, accountability and citizen-centricity have become the hallmark of PM Modi’s Governance Model,” says Dr Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State (I/C), Science& Technology& Earth Sciences, Prime Minister’s Office, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy, and Space, GoI.[8] Towards delivering to its promise on ‘good and sustainable governance’ through catering to the above – transparency, accountability and citizen-centricity, the GoI has been robust in its approach of communicating to the concerned government officials as well as the public at large of its vision and action, among other matters. Government policies and initiatives are implemented primarily by the concerned Ministries, Departments, Autonomous bodies, Public Sector Undertakings, and so on. While these are generally effected through the official channels of communication, what is of greater significance is the regular, periodic and direct communication of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of the country to the public at large.

In the above context, a special mention is to be made of the high-impact communication platform – the “Mann ki Baat” established by the GoI. The “Mann ki Baat” is a distinct and unique platform wherein the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India interacts with the country’s citizens on various matters of relevance to the general masses.[9] The campaign promotes inclusive development as the discussions are based on suggested topics and ideas given by the public. At the same time, the government apprises and appeals for citizen involvement in the initiatives. The campaign informs and reiterates the government’s vision, action and progress on the country’s developmental needs. The campaign thus reflects and re-emphasizes the government’s commitment, accountability and transparency to meet the defined objectives and goals.

In the context of Ayush, over a third of the “Mann ki Baat” episodes bear reference to various aspects of the conventional practices of health and wellness, also highlighting in addition to the value and importance that Yoga and Ayurveda offer for various human ailments as well as preventive care, and serving as a link for global connectivity.

The unwavering focus of the GoI towards promoting Ayush for global welfare can be found in this excerpt of the 96th episode of the “Mann ki Baat”.[10] During this episode, the Hon’ble Prime Minister states the following:

Satyam kim pramanam, pratyaksham kim pramanam.

That is truth does not require proof, what is evident also does not require proof.

But when it comes to modern Medical Science, the most important thing is – Evidence. Lack of evidence-based research in the context of our scriptures like Yoga and Ayurveda has always been a challenge which has been a part of Indian life for centuries- results are visible, but evidence is not. But, I am happy that in the era of Evidence-based medicine, Yoga and Ayurveda are now standing up to the touchstone of tests of the modern era. ….

…In today’s era, the more evidence-based Indian medical systems are, the more their acceptance will increase in the whole world…..

…Even in the Ayurveda Congress, I reiterated the point for evidence-based research to the Ayurveda experts gathered from all over the world. The way we all are seeing the power of Yoga and Ayurveda in this time of the Corona global pandemic, evidence-based research related to these will prove to be very significant.”

The establishment of the GCTM in India aligns with the vision of the GoI towards having a balanced integration of traditional and modern medicines-based healthcare strategy. The GCTM “aims to harness the potential of traditional medicine from across the world through modern science and technology to improve the health of people and the planet”. [11]

To deliver the GoI’s vision of Ayush and traditional medicine, backed by science & technology, the Ministry of Ayush (MoA) continues its incessant efforts towards forging cooperation with national and international agencies and other stakeholders for awareness, training, education, research and market expansion.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), a publicly funded R&D organization in the country, has been a long-standing partner to the MoA across diverse activities. The CSIR is headed by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India as the President of the CSIR Society. The CSIR is well recognized for its contributions and activities related to traditional knowledge, including the conventional systems of medicine. The CSIR pursues diverse R&D activities associated with Ayush that cover medicinal plant varieties, botanical reference standards, herbal formulations and phytopharmaceuticals, and integrating traditional & modern sciences through the Ayurgenomics approach, among several others.[12]

The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) is a flagship initiative of India, set up to thwart cases of misappropriation of Indian Traditional Knowledge (TK) through wrongful patent grants.[13] Today, the TKDL is not only a global benchmark as a prior art database for the defensive protection of TK, but is also a live example of how the two agencies (CSIR and MoA), with diverse mandates, can work as close knowledge partners. In 2001, the TKDL started as a collaboration between the CSIR and the Dept. of Indian Systems of Medicine & Homeopathy (now Ministry of Ayush) focused on digitizing information related to traditional medicines, and the cooperation continues. The database currently contains information on about 4.4 lakh formulations from the texts of Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Sowa Rigpa, and Yoga techniques.

Recently, in August 2022, the Cabinet of GoI, led by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, approved widening the TKDL database’s access to all users, which was hitherto accessible only to patent offices. This landmark decision of the GoI is to promote R&D, innovation and trade of Ayush interventions for the larger global good.[14]

Taking cognizance of CSIR’s achievements and potential in the domain of herbal products and traditional medicines, the directives of the GoI to the organization have been many. Through the specific directions, the key objective of the GoI is to forge and promote stronger collaboration between the CSIR and MoA to cater to the contemporary and emerging healthcare needs of India and the world over. The scientifically validated and integrated healthcare interventions developed through such cooperation would help India achieve the targets to make Ayush globally acceptable. The directives to the CSIR include R&D efforts focused on scientific validation, combining traditional knowledge and modern science to develop world-class products, development of digital products/applications related to Ayush, attractive packaging and branding of Ayush products, making the products globally competitive, market expansion, and also communicating scientifically validated traditional knowledge and practices to the public, among others.

Recently, the CSIR and the MoA concluded their joint work on clinical trials of four Ayurveda interventions for COVID-19. The studies have provided much-sought evidence for AYUSH-64 as a therapeutic and Ashwagandha as a prophylactic against Sars-Cov-2 infection. The scientific endeavours form only one end of the spectrum of cooperation between the agencies. Towards addressing the need for sustained adoption of Ayush interventions in everyday life, the CSIR and MoA established a new partnership on deployment. The CSIR health centres are now home to regular Ayush OPDs, in nine laboratories across the country.

In due cognizance of the activities undertaken by various bodies in the country on TK, the GoI felt a need to communicate India’s rich traditional knowledge and practices that have been scientifically validated to society. The CSIR thus put in place a national initiative on “Communicating India’s Scientifically Validated Traditional Knowledge to the Society”, led by its constituent laboratory, CSIR-National Institute for Science Communication and Policy Research (CSIR-NIScPR).[15] The campaign named SVASTIK: Scientifically Validated Societal Traditional Knowledge was mooted. The objective of the initiative was to conserve the practice of the right tradition, inculcate a scientific temper of verifying tradition scientifically and instil confidence in citizens regarding the scientific value of our traditional knowledge/practices. The initiative has been rolled out through social media platforms. The communication strategy includes the following: Media campaign- Social media pages- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn; New Hashtags; Infographics, Short audio-visuals etc., Dedicated web portal & networking with other portals on TK; Repository of scientifically validated TK practices; Popular articles/Blogs/Reports– From the TK providers/Experts/Science Communicators; Webinar/Popular lectures; and Special Issue(s) of Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge (IJTK). So far, over 28 TK practices/know-how with a scientific basis in the domains of Metallurgy, Ayush, Mathematics, Water Management and Sustainable agriculture were verified, documented in a uniform format and disseminated under the SVASTIK banner in over 17 languages.

The narration, so far, is on the synergistic activities of just one scientific organization, namely, the CSIR and the MoA, on the traditional knowledge systems. Along similar lines, cooperation has been established between the MoA with other ministries/agencies such as the Ministry of Women & Child Development (MoWCD), the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), the Department of Science and Technology (DST), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), and Universities in the country, and several others abroad.[6],[7] Some collaborations have already proven valuable, as seen in scientific publications and reports. This integrated synergy will also pave the way for India to effectively contribute and lead the GCTM on its objective “to optimize the contribution of traditional medicine to global health and sustainable health”.[11]

  Conclusion Top

Integrated healthcare shall be the future, and India is establishing a strong foundation for this phenomenon by bringing together complementary skills and expertise from traditional and modern sciences and medicine. Traditional medicine systems are just part of a large ocean of traditional knowledge that is available globally. With the recent thrust on climate change and mitigation strategies, recognition for traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is rising. India’s efforts for rejuvenating and reaffirming the value of Ayush in healthcare are notable. They must also be seen from the perspective of their value to global policymaking on traditional knowledge. The struggle to bring parity between traditional and contemporary knowledge systems may continue, and governments, world-over, would have more significant roles and responsibilities towards bringing in the required knowledge equity.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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