Healthcare is becoming increasingly expensive and people around the world are looking for ways to enjoy a healthy life without the financial burden of modern medicine. New age health streams are being looked at as viable and sustainable alternatives with renewed interest. Ayurveda and Yoga, two traditional systems from India are gaining interest both domestically and internationally.
This popularity has brought with it the menace of quacks making savvy use of technology for bypassing regulatory authorities and promoting their spurious practices. Print news media and internet abound with advertisements and self-promotion literature from such impersonators, purporting to provide cures and therapies for various common and serious ailments. Internationally, it is easy to fool gullible foreigners with rudimentary knowledge of the systems.
Many phony persons manage to gather some expertise in the terminology and essential ingredients to pass themselves off as specialists. However, they actually have no fundamental knowledge to treat or to impart training. This does great damage to the fair name of authentic India traditional systems, which are scientific, and require rigorous discipline and training. It also puts unsuspecting patients at risk and greatly harms the efforts of qualified practitioners.
One such lady, Dr. (Ms.) Vinod Verma falls in that category. She claims to be an expert in the systems of Ayurveda and Yoga, internationally renowned as a scientist promoting herself as “first lady of Ayurveda” and to have many centers in India and in Germany. She has books on Ayurveda and Yoga, which is available online. She also runs professional training courses. However, she has done Ph.D. in Morphological and Cytochemical studies on Vitellogenesis in some teleost fishes, from Punjab University (Chandigarh) in 1976, an area in microbiology totally unrelated with Ayurvedic practice. She has no known qualifications in Ayurveda however, which became evident to this journalist in researching this story.
Dr. (Ms.) Vinod Verma’s modus operandi is quite simple. She exploits names of the eminent authorities and institutions of Ayurveda to bolster her image and authenticate her credentials, but is vague on the details. One such authority is Acharya Priya Vrat Sharma. Acharya Sharma, was Director of Post Graduate Institute of Indian Medicine (PGIIM) and the first Dean of Postgraduate Faculty of Ayurveda, Banaras Hindu University (B. H. U.) and is considered a pioneer in creation of new authentic Ayurvedic literature in 20th century. Born on 1st November, 1920 and passed away on 18th May 2007. Prof. Sharma in his complete career as researcher, teacher and research guide, he successfully supervised 16 D.Ay.M., / M.D.(Ays) from 1966 to 1978 and 14 PhDs.
Interestingly, Dr. (Ms.) Vinod Verma claims to have studied under Acharya Sharma for 23 years under the Guru Shishya Parampara, and to have done her PhD. However, she makes no mention of the year or area of specialization/ research. According to records available with BHU, her name figures nowhere in the list of Ph. D.s or P.G. students who have studied under Archarya Sharma. Nor does she make mention or acknowledgement of his training in her books.
According to Supreme Court order of 10th May 1996 “right to practice in Allopathic System of Medicine as also the right to practice in Ayurvedic or Unani System of Medicine is regulated by separate independent Central and local Acts. Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 deals, inter alia, with the registration of persons possessing requisite qualifications as Medical Practitioner in Allopathic System as also recognition of Medical Qualifications and Examinations by Universities or Medical Institutions in India. Section 15 of this Act provides that any person possessing any of the qualifications mentioned in the Schedule appended to the Act, may apply for the registration of his name. Sub-sections 2 and 3 of Section 15, which are extremely relevant”. The Act also provides that “any person who acts in contravention of any of the provisions of sub-section …shall be punished by imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with a fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”
Apart from the Central Act, States also have their local laws to regulate and register qualified practitioners. The Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare through its Department of Ayush, which regulates the practice of Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Siddha and Homeopathy, has recognized the danger that quackery poses both to the seekers and practitioners of Ayurveda and Yoga, and to the gullible patients desperate for healing and good health. It has set up regulatory mechanisms to weed out quacks. Its Central Register is a database of registered practitioners can be searched to check the claimed practitioner’s credentials.
As per the website, Dr. Verma’s New Way Health Organisation (NOW) and its Himalayan Center “Charaka School of Ayurveda” offer private sessions to improve quality of life and enhance energies at physical, mental and sexual levels. Short time half hour sessions are also offered to solve specific and chronic problems. However, neither she nor her institution is listed with either the Central or State registries as available on the Ayush website.
Besides healing, Dr. Verma also runs professional training for Junior and Senior Ayurveda Assistants in her center at village Astal, tehsil Dunda, district Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand, as per her website. For registering for the courses, foreign aspiring students are asked to deposit a registration fee of 410 euro in her personal account in Deutsche Bank, Freiburg (Account no. 263481461 BLZ – 68070024). Her principal activities, located in Germany is associated with ImPuls and its yoga school in Gottingen since 1993. According to Shri Govind Ballabh Ohli, Director, Ayush, Uttarakhand, there is no activity of training programs in Ayurveda studies in the center. “The Charaka School of Ayurveda, run by one Dr. Vinod Verma, is non-functional and one chowkidar is a caretaker of her so-called Center” he said. He further said that Dr. Verma visits her Charaka School of Ayurveda once in a while. Neither her center, or she herself is registered with Ayush as per rules and regulations laid down by the Indian Medicine Central Council Act 1970, Ohli confirmed. The courses award a certificate upon successful completion. They are however not registered with nor recognized by any board or council established by the Government of India. Nor is there any information on the panel of instructors or their credentials.
As per Dr. Verma’s website, her organization also runs social welfare programs to impart knowledge and training in health programs to residents around her Astal center. The reality on the ground is quite different. “No such social activities are extended as claimed by her, which could benefit the inhabitants in the surrounding area” Ohli firmly said.
Dr. Verma, in her website (which posts her annual program) describes the Noida Center at A -130 sector 26 as the head quarters and principal head office and library. When this journalist visited the Noida center, located in a residential suburb of Delhi, he found it locked. Enquiry with the neighbors revealed that a domestic attendant visits the premises once every three days for cleaning. One Chandra Shekar, miller (chakkiwala, running masala chakki) and owner of a general store, residing in A-127 Sec 26, Noida, claims to be in possession of the keys of her office and receives her letters, even legal notices in her name. Another woman-neighbor was very categorical in describing Dr. Verma as a cheat and a fraud who has no professional degree. She said her son, Prince, who actively gives on-line health tips, once confronted with Dr. Verma on her credentials, but she was speechless and disappeared in huff.
Dr. Surendra Chowdhary, Medical Officer, is former District Ayurveda and Unani officer, Noida. When contacted, he said that as per Supreme Court ruling, it is illegal to run any commercial activities from a residential premises there. He also confirmed that the lady’s institution or she herself as a Ayurveda professional are not registered with the State register.
The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 provides that unless prescribed by medical practitioners or after consultation with the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940, no person or Company shall take part in publication of any advertisement referring to any drug used for diseases like diabetes, Utreus diseases, rheumatism, gall bladder stone, kidney stones, amongst other. Dr. Verma’s website offers herbal mixtures for piles, diuretic powders for removing kidney stones, S-compound for chronic cold, A-compound for chronic and arthritic pain, P-compound for preventing cysts, D-compound for preventing asthma and more such “self-help” remedies available on order.
This journalist frantically tried to contact Dr. Verma on e-mails and telephone nos. available on her website to get her views, but received no response. Even her person in Europe, Mr. Michael Roslen, ImPuls-Akazienweg, 56-A-37082, Gottingen, at Berufsverband Unabhangiger Gesundheitswissenschaftlicher Yoga (BUGY) LehrerInnen did not respond to telephone calls or mails.
Most people, especially foreigners, are distracted by the exotic nature of the system, and if the quack is cleaver, he or she will camouflage quackery behind high-sounding unrelated degrees and institutions, sometimes even international universities of high repute, knowing fully well that no one in today’s busy life has the time to verify.
One sure way to fool gullible people is to publish a series of books with cleverly cut and paste content. And with self-publishing, common readers cannot judge its authenticity. Some go to the extent for selling medicines online with no license from the authorized department, and no tests whatsoever, endangering the health and life of the patients and users.
Dr. Verma books on Ayurveda are available on every popular online bookstore. However, they have no authenticity or originality. They are a copy paste job from authoritative works, simplified for readers. Their accuracy however is unverified.
Dr. Choudhury supports the argument that such self-promoted Ayurveda practitioners are usually involved in publishing these kind of books which are endanger health and life.
Quackery is punishable by law in India and many other nations, although awareness is low. It is due to this lack of awareness and pro-active initiative that quacks like Ms. Verma flourish at the expense of the genuine scientists and give the Indian tradition of Ayurveda and Yoga a bad name.