Conclusion on survival mechanism to be drawn only after analysing all tests
AHMEDABAD: A 15-day ‘observational study' conducted by the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS) under the Defence Research and Development Organisation on Prahlad Jani, better known as “Mataji,” concluded on Thursday.
DIPAS Director G. Ilavezhagen told journalists here that the study was to understand how a person could survive without food and water and without passing urine or stools for a long time.
“A scientific understanding of the mechanism of such survival may help in working out survival strategies under stressful and extreme conditions. This may have applications during natural calamities and disasters,” he said.
The Defence Ministry was particularly interested to know if his “survival mechanism” could be explained in scientific terms, and whether it could be replicated for defence personnel doing duty in difficult areas where maintaining regular supply channels at times become difficult.
Dr. Ilavezhagen said the DIPAS would draw a conclusion on the survival mechanism only after critically analysing the reports of tests carried out during April 22-May 6. “Some medical parameters may take two weeks to study and a few others may take two months before we can draw any conclusion,” he said. The team would meet periodically to discuss the findings and draw “valid conclusions,” he said.
Top scientists from the DIPAS and a team of 35 “super specialist doctors” conducted the study at the Sterling Hospital here. The “study protocol” was cleared by the “ethics committee” of the DIPAS and Sterling Hospital and was “strictly followed” to ensure that the “privacy, safety, security and dignity” of Mr. Jani was “not compromised” at any stage.
Because no insurance company would accept to cover the risk for the 82-year-old Jani during the study, the Gujarat government agreed to stand guarantee up to Rs. 15 lakh in case of any exigency.
Mr. Jani, who lived in the temple town of Ambaji in north Gujarat, was brought to the Sterling Hospital and was constantly watched through closed-circuit television cameras. The doctors carried out periodical checks of all his medical parameters. Because he did not take any food or water, the only condition he set for the team was not to carry out any “invasive” tests that would require him to consume water or any other fluid. He took occasional baths and gargled.
Mr. Jani's disciples claim that he has not taken any food or water and not passed urine or stools for the last 76 years. According to them he survived on “solar energy.” They claimed that when he was eight years old, Goddess Amba Mata appeared before him in Pune, “touched” his tongue with a finger and since then he had never felt the urge to eat or drink. “I did not give up food or water, nature has taken it away from me. I don't feel the need for it,” Mr. Jani said. He said he had “nothing to prove” but agreed to undergo the study as it could help human beings at large.
Dr. Ilavezhagen said during the period he was under observation, he did not consume any food or water, nor passed urine or stools. However, it would be too early to draw any conclusion about his “survival mechanism.” He said people were known to have lived without food or water for a longer period, “but it does surprise us that he can survive without passing urine or stools,” he said.
Both Dr. Ilavezhagen and the head of the medical team, Sudhir Shah, said no appreciable change in the medical parameters was observed. “If a person starts fasting, there will be some changes in his metabolism, but in his case we did not find any,” Dr. Ilavezhagen said. “Clinical, biochemical, radiological and other relevant examinations were done on him. All findings were within the safe range,” he said.
Dr. Shah said the team “practically studied almost all his systems” and found them functioning almost normally. The brain MRI was normal. Functioning of motor and sensory nerves, lungs, heart, and every other system were found normal “for his age.” “No features suggestive of any psychiatric disorder were observed during the period,” he said.
The study was an extension of a similar one conducted on him in the same hospital, also by the DIPAS in 2003, but this time it was carried out with more modern equipment and medical aids, Dr. Ilavezhagen said.