Doctors in many Indian hospitals closed out-patients departments and wore black armbands on Friday to protest against a government decision to allow practitioners of traditional medicine (Ayurveda) carry out minor surgical procedures.
Ayurveda is a centuries-old traditional system of healing with herbal concoctions and massages that finds mention in ancient Hindu texts and is still widely practiced in India.
The countrywide strike was called by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the country’s top representative body for doctors.
“We stood up for India, lost 700 doctors to COVID-19. Your turn now to save modern medicine from mixopathy,” the IMA said in a newspaper advertisement on Friday.
The Indian government in November amended regulations and issued a notification making it legal for Ayurveda practitioners to perform procedures such as skin grafting, cataract surgery, excision of benign tumours and root canal treatment.
The regulations had previously disallowed such practice.
Ayurveda practitioners who want to carry out surgical procedures will receive training, but it is not clear who will carry this out.
“Modern medicine is controlled and research-oriented, we’re proud of the heritage and richness of Ayurveda but the two shouldn’t be mixed,” IMA president Rajan Sharma said.
Out-patient departments remained closed in hospitals in southern Kerala state and north-eastern Assam, Times of India newspaper reported.
In other states like Uttar Pradesh a symbolic one-hour strike was observed.
Some states like Uttarakhand banned the strike invoking emergency laws to maintain essential services.
In the national capital New Delhi, doctors at several state-run hospitals wore black arm bands to work.
The IMA has said all intensive care and emergency services as well as all COVID-19-related services would be maintained during the strike.