Bad medicine: How quacks are rubbing it the wrong way
Dimapur, Sep. 13: It is not uncommon to see quacks selling potentially harmful medicines on the sidewalks and roadsides in Indian cities but such makeshift tents usually do not remain for long as the authorities restrict it. Surprisingly, such dubious tents are seen in Nagaland too and its number is swelling by the day.
The state’s commercial hub Dimapur is home to several makeshift stalls on roadsides where possible quacks, who claim to be medical practitioners, sell medicines. They offer treatment for all sorts of ailments such as impotency, blood cancer, paralysis, asthma, diabetes, polio, kidney stone, high blood pressure and more but the veracity of their practice is questionable.
One such practitioner by the name Baidhji, who sells medicines in his makeshift stall opposite Hillstar Digital Cinema, Dimapur, told Eastern Mirror that he has been practicing ‘medicine’ for the last 7-8 years and has cured many ailments of famous actors and politicians. He failed to produce a permit of registration but instead showed ‘certificates of appreciation’ from well-known Indian actors and personalities supposedly given in recognition of his treatment.
However, Eastern Mirror could not independently verify the authenticity of these ‘certificates of appreciation’. Baidhji claimed that he brings these herbs and plants from the forests of Ladakh, and has not received any complaint so far.
“I travel by myself to and fro from Ladakh which takes me many days and get these herbs for making the medicines,” said Baidhji.
However, quacks have become a menace in the country. The recent death of a patient after going for regular dental checkups to a quack and subsequent suicide attempt by the quack in the Bargarh district of Odisha has sparked a big controversy with doctors now campaigning to end such unethical practices in the state through an anti-quackery law.
According to the Supreme Court of India, any practitioners posing as qualified doctors and administering potentially dangerous and hazardous medicines to people are defined as ‘quacks.’ It struck down on quacks in a recent ruling by dismissing Kerala Ayurveda Paramparya Vaidya Forum’s plea to let it practise indigenous medicine after the Travancore-Cochin Medical Practitioners Act, 1953 came into force. The apex court said that people with no recognised and approved qualifications ‘commit blunders’ and precious lives lost.
What doctors have to say on quacks
The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Dimapur, Dr. K Vikato Kinimi revealed that there have been a few incidences where unregistered and unqualified practitioners were caught.
“There was a bone specialist just outside the Civil Hospital in Dimapur and we found it fishy, so we went and ask for his registration permit. The person didn’t even know how many bones the human body has when asked and eventually shut down the shop,” Kinimi told Eastern Mirror.
He said that few people were caught in a rural part of Nagaland without registration but had been practicing for many years. He added that since it has been practised for generations and they already had partial knowledge in the medical field, he gave them training for 6 months and made sure they registered themselves if they wanted to practice further.
“There are many legal steps involved when one needs to get registered for such practices,” said Kinimi, informing that these quacks are also called indigenous medical practitioners (IMP). He informed that any person or organisation having a medical practice in Nagaland must register themselves under the Nagaland Health Care Establishment Act.
Kinimi said that there are rules to be followed and under section 14 (i) of the Nagaland Health Care Establishment Act, any person who knowingly establish or maintain a health care establishment, which is not duly registered and in contravention of the provisions of this Act or rules made there under, shall on conviction be punishable for a term which may extend up to one year imprisonment or fine that may extend up to INR 5,000 or both. In case of second or subsequent offences, an imprisonment for one year or with fine which may extend to INR 10,000 may be given.
He said that no case has been registered as a fallout of taking medicines prescribed by the quacks so far but urged the public to report if they face any health setbacks after taking such medicines. “Public support and participation is required,” said the CMO adding that if such complaints come then a drug inspector would be sent to verify such IMP and test the “medicines.”
A doctor from Zion hospital said that these quacks should not be permitted to openly sell the medicines and put risk to the lives of the people.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to practice and prescribe medicines without any registration to people as we do not know the origin, source and contents of these medicines in the first place,” the doctor said.
DMC promises action
The administrator of Dimapur Municipal Council (DMC) told Eastern Mirror that no trade licence or permits have been issued to the quacks to set up their shops on the roadside.
“We will get it checked and take up necessary action if found illegal,” he assured.
Across the country an estimated 10 lakh quacks are practicing allopathic medicine, out of which 4 lakh belong to practitioners of Indian medicine, according to the Indian Medical Association. It has regretted that there is an acute lack of awareness among the state governments on quacks.
“The health of the gullible people including poor, critically ill, women and children are at stake. Therefore, there is a greater need to act against quacks wherever any of us come across them,” according to the association.