Even something old and time-tested may require a fresh approach. While Ayurveda is considered the science of life and the source of most alternative healthcare systems, it was beset with challenges at the turn of the 20th century. Its growth rate was stagnating and certain 'scientific' reviews were questioning the efficacy of Ayurvedic formulations, given their heavy metal content. European legislation was threatening to bar Ayurveda from the continent forever. Ayurvedic organizations did register protests but could not mobilise the cohesive, critical mass needed to make their voices heard. They needed advocacy groups and forums to offer robust scientific support to the idea of Ayurveda. This raised the need for a credible platform that would potentially disseminate authentic, unbiased, comprehensive information to national and global audiences. As a result, in 2001, the WAC (World Ayurveda Congress) was established, an appropriately optimistic development to harbinger the start of the new millennium. Of course, this was helped by the fact that despite the stated challenges, global awareness of Ayurveda was on the rise. Increasingly, people across the world were discovering what a panacea for lifestyle-related and chronic diseases Ayurveda could be. Also, there was new evidence to validate Ayurvedic scriptures, thus piquing interest in this science. Over 10 years and through four Congresses, the WAC has emerged as a global forum for all stakeholders to not only network but also engage in intellectual exchange to strengthen the Ayurveda sector, reaffirm their sense of purpose and think about the future. It showcases advances in relevant fields, orients students and facilitates interaction between professionals and consumers, thus boosting Ayurveda commerce. The annual reports of the Department of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy) confirm that Ayurveda's popularity and commerce have improved tremendously since 2001. As the accompanying graph reveals, the foreign trade of AYUSH products increased by 48% over the previous year, a rise of Rs 5862 million. The figure touched Rs 13,119 million in 2009/10, as per data available from DGCIS and Pharmexcil Research (see Table). The trade in AYUSH sector has been growing at CAGR of 20%-25% since the first WAC in 2002. Bulk of the trade related to AYUSH is contributed by Ayurveda. There are reasons to believe that the policy recommendations of World Ayurveda Congress have influenced directly or indirectly the perspectives of central and various state governments towards this sector. The following facts corroborate the above statement to some extent.
There have been increases in state budgetary outlays for Ayurveda in the states of Kerala (since first WAC in 2001 in Kochi), Maharashtra (since second WAC in 2006 in Pune), Rajasthan (since third WAC in 2008 in Jaipur), and Karnataka (since fourth WAC in 2010 in Bengaluru). Many other states also have taken similar initiatives.
In 2003, the Government of India provided Kerala with Rs 2877.5 million via a scheme for hospitals and dispensaries, a humongous increase over the Rs 50 million allotted in the previous year. Maharashtra received Rs 2167.5 million in 2006, a substantial improvement over the Rs 178.9 million allotted in 2005.
The Ministry of Railways has included Ayurveda in the health scheme of Railway employees and initiated 39 Ayurvedic dispensaries across India.
The Ministry of Coal and Mining has included Ayurveda for the occupational hazards management of miners and started 16 Ayurvedic dispensaries in coal/lignite mines in Central India.
In 2009/10, with due credit to the Department of AYUSH, Government of India, 2368 doctors and 2184 para-medics were appointed. AYUSH practitioners, mostly from the Ayurveda stream, have been co-located in 1918 public health centres, 171 community health centres, and 46 district hospitals. The Department of AYUSH also initiated several public health campaigns such as 'Ayurveda for Anaemia' and 'National Campaign on Amla'.
In fact, the WAC's activities have paved the way for well organized pro-Ayurvedic movements around the world. To propagate the practice, science and trade of Ayurveda, the WAC organises events and scientific discourses across the globe. It takes keen interest in trade improvement, acceptance of Ayurveda as a medical system, registration of Ayurvedic practitioners and popularisation of Ayurveda drugs in various countries.
Having established itself as a vital platform for Ayurveda, the WAC has set itself the following goals for the future (2009–14).
• To facilitate acceptance and recognition for Ayurveda as a complete health system adoptable in all countries across the world
• To create appropriate platforms for 'scientific basing' of Ayurveda along with suitable infrastructure to popularize the outcomes
• To make Ayurveda an integral part of health-care management
Within the larger objectives, the specific key achievables identified are as follows:
• To create interest groups in 30 countries including those in the European Union, Association of South- East Asian Nations, the United Arab Emirates, and North America
• To formulate international peer-review panels in basic and medical sciences for credible guidance and
validation of research
• To initiate the creation of a network of medical institutions, laboratories, and universities across the world for aiding joint research and creating a database of management efficacy of Ayurveda.
The World Ayurveda Foundation (WAF) is one of the major outcomes of the 4th World Ayurveda Congress. Initiated and mooted by Vijnana Bharati, the Foundation has the backing and blessings of the dignitaries and Ayurveda practitioners, from both within the country and overseas. This umbrella organization will focus on furthering the cause of Ayurveda, and popularising it across the world.