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ayurvedic physician


Chamba, Henval valley, Tehri Garhwal


early 1994


Mohan is an Ayurvedic physician, following India’s classic medical tradition. In a thoughtful and articulate interview, he recounts his experiences of life in the community, shares his knowledge of medicine and medicinal plants and offers his perception of the most appropriate development path for the Garhwal region. He explains: “On the one hand people are losing their traditional knowledge and means, and on the other hand they are not getting adequate training in modern scientific techniques. As a result of it they are losing all their assets. That's why I advocate the revival of traditional occupation, measures and methods...”

He calls for cottage industries and vocational education to revive declining handicraft industries and traditional farming practices, and for research to recover knowledge of medicinal plants. He explains that the revival of such industries is vital to stop the migration to the cities: “Intellectuals and others will keep going to the plains unless and until there are more cottage industries established in this area, because people having big families don't get adequate output from agriculture.”

Finally Mohan expresses the hope that interviews such as his “could create pressure on the government concerned to use the experiences and wisdom of the people located in that area for which the development schemes are planned.”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  As a doctor he looks after the family’s health needs. Several family members including women, are educated to BA and MA level. More attention should be paid to women’s education, particularly in remote and backward areas. Marriages take place within caste groups. “Inter-caste marriages are very rare and whenever performed, unfortunately end up in a worse condition.”
Section 2-3  Lives in a joint family. “No one can survive in this rural area if they don't live in a joint family” - many hands are needed for various jobs. Little change in women’s hardworking lives: “they think that they have only been born for doing all this work. There is no awareness in them so far....” Family led by the senior member. “But anybody else can attain the chief position in the family when the members get scattered due to temporary migration.” The family is Brahmin; his main ancestral occupation is medical service.
Section 3  Village’s natural resources have provided many families with livelihoods. Educational facilities nearby; “…in other villages… the children have to face so many difficulties [getting to school] that the parents think it is better not to get their children admitted at all.” Vocational training needed in “handicrafts based on local material.” Widening generation gap influenced by the advent of TV. Losing the “Ancient values of our culture ... Moral education is needed urgently.”
Section 4  Two caste groups in the village. Lower castes live in another village. Stresses there is no caste conflict. Life in urban areas “People have become more selfish ...This evil is creeping into the rural areas gradually.” The spiritual significance of mountains. The few disputes are “settled by the intervention of some wise and elderly persons of the village.” People seldom “knock at the doors of the courts” for fear that they will “lose all”.
Section 5  The present electoral system “disrupts the social set-up and gives rise to tension” as people vote along caste/class/parochial lines.
Section 5  Main livelihood is agriculture. “Our traditional seeds and agricultural methods have become extinct because of the new chemical fertilisers and crossbred seeds.” This causes a lack of “vitality” in produce; so “a revival of the old traditions” is needed. Migration: “Villages, one after another, are being deserted...Youths rush to the cities for jobs. This manpower drain can only be stopped by establishment of cottage industries, creating job facilities here in the nearby area.”
Section 5-6  Money-based economy “is giving rise to corruption”. Calls for a “revival of the goods exchange system.”
Section 6  The practice of accepting dowry has come from the plains and is “not good at all”. Old trades have disappeared, causing loss of self-sufficiency: “Now we depend on those who came from outside for a short period and live in the temporary sheds beside roads.” Village is now dependent on electricity. Argues that “all the work that used to be done in the village in the past should be revived.” New dams and networks of roads are “excess tampering”. Roads increase migration, and people no longer do pilgrimages on foot; practice of austerity and contact with nature and people are lost when doing pilgrimage by vehicle. Earthquake of 1991. Famine not common in the hills.
Section 7  Alcohol: “Our youth is acquiring the disease – he is losing his health and wealth too.”
Section 7-8  After 30 years in medical practice, feels pregnancy and childbirth are the main health risks and says “maternity centres should be opened at short distances”. Loss of traditional medical knowledge although “Some old women tell us that they know the treatment for many common diseases… [and] Valuable medicinal plants are found here in plenty”. Research on the use of medicinal plants is needed. Calls for more Ayurvedic hospitals.
Section 8-9  Practical implements (plough heads, shovels, etc) were once made in the village, but now “people have left their occupations. Some have migrated and the new generation doesn’t know how to make them”. The government and social organisations should open training centres for the revival of traditional handicrafts.
Section 9-10  Abundance of local agricultural products, including grain and fruit, but a need for training of farmers, and more research to improve local varieties. A decline in orchards and farming. “The natural cycle has been disturbed. No rainfall occurs at the appropriate period when the crop needs water.” This is due to “massive tree felling.” Developed varieties of seeds and chemical fertilisers have had a bad effect. “Research work should be conducted to develop...traditional seeds and methods rather than the application of those new methods, which are not suitable for the climate here.” Water sources have dried up. The new hydraulic pumps that have been introduced are not effective.
Section 10  Traditional means of entertainment and communication, including village fairs, local ceremonies, folk songs and dance, “are losing ground with the arrival of modern means of recreation like radios and TVs”.
Section 11-13  Loss of wildlife with deforestation. Brief history of land ownership in region. Landholdings now should be consolidated, not distributed. Soil fertility decreasing due to insufficient rain and attention. Farmers in remote areas have no transportation or marketing facilities. 85% of local forest has been felled. Forest dept began to “auction the forest”: “No one was there to teach [the villagers] the importance of the forests”. Forest fires “due to the persistent feeling of indifference towards the forests.” Need for forest education in training centres and community groups, and mass cooperation. There also needs to be much more local involvement in development plans: “there should be development, but it should be based on the culture and traditions of this area. If you import a song from outside, and the people here don’t know the tune, the results will not be good.”
Section 12-13  His ideas for how to ensure the future of the area: solutions include: a) an end to migration by the people of the hills; b) basic needs being met; c) more education facilities, inc. vocational training; d) establishment of industries, esp. cottage industries; e) protection of forests; f) preserving the natural beauty of the area; and g) maintaining local traditions and customs.