Dismay over the addition of a colour image of Dhanvantari, and the word ‘Bharat’ to the National Medical Commission’s logo

Move follows the renaming of Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres to ‘Ayushman Arogya Mandir’ with the tagline ‘Arogyam Parmam Dhanam’ earlier this week

November 30, 2023 07:50 pm | Updated 07:50 pm IST - NEW DELHI

After the Union Health Ministry directed the renaming of the Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres to ‘Ayushman Arogya Mandir’ with the tagline ‘Arogyam Parmam Dhanam’ (health is the greatest wealth) early this week, the National Medical Commission (NMC) has joined the rebranding process by modifying its logo with a colour image of Dhanvantari and the word ‘Bharat’ above it. 

Dhanvantari, regarded as an avatar of Vishnu, is the physician of the devas (gods) in Hinduism; the Puranas mention he is the god of Ayurveda. 

Both moves have evoked dismay among doctors, leaders, and the people, who question why the Department of Health and Family Welfare, with its budget allocation of approximately 2% of the total Central government expenditure for 2023-24, was undertaking the renaming exercise for 1.16 lakh Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres across India. The Centre, in its communication to the States and Union Territories, has said that the funds proposed for renaming existing health centres is ₹3,000 per facility. 

Speaking to The Hindu, a senior official of the NMC maintained that the NMC’s logo had not been changed. “Only the central picture, which was previously black and white, is now coloured,” he said

The Ayushman Bharat centres are aimed at providing a comprehensive package of services, including preventive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care for all ages; the project receives 60% funding from the Centre and 40% from the States.

Senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Thomas Isaac questioned the move in a post on social media. “Centre wants to rename Kudumba Arogya Kendram (Family Health Centre) of Kerala with its Hindi brand name Ayushman Arogya Mandir because ₹5 lakh of central funds have been used for these primary health centres with asset value of around ₹1crore each. Ultra nationalism at its worst!,” Mr. Isaac posted.

The Kerala chapter of the Indian Medical Association has written to the NMC that the new logo was “not acceptable to the modern medical fraternity”. “The new logo gives wrong message and will harm the scientific and secular nature of the Commission. Members of the profession have already raised their voice against this unacceptable move, and we strongly condemn the decision and demand immediate action,” the letter stated.

“NMC is trying to divert attention from the incompetent handling of core issues affecting the profession,” Right to Information (RTI) activist K.V. Babu said. “Even after three years, the NMC Chairman and members are reluctant to disclose their assets on the website, and now they are uploading a new logo,” Dr. Babu added.

“This apex scientific body has brought in an image of the Hindu god Dhanvantri, the embodiment of pseudoscientific Ayurveda,” Cyriac Abby Philips, hepatologist at a Kochi-based private hospital, said. “The logo should be a more secular one that does not embrace pseudoscientific beliefs, driven by religion and faith, but by science and rationality,” Dr. Philips added.

The Kerala State Medical Council for Indian Systems of Medicine previously served a notice to Dr. Philips, accusing him of defaming Ayurveda and calling the traditional branch of medicine a “pseudoscience”.

“Medicine is secular. Patients are not discriminated by their religion. Hence, calling ‘Ayushman Mandir’ denotes a particular religion,” the IMA’s former national president Ravi Wankhedkar told The Hindu. “Already, people are questioning — why not call them Arogya gurdwara/church/masjid,” Dr. Wankhedkar said.

The NMC, formerly known as the Medical Council of India, is the 33-member regulatory body that governs the field of medical education in the country.

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