Heritage and the Politics of Culture
“Pluralism” as a key principle of India’s public health policy is mentioned for the first time in India’s National Health Policy 2017. In this document pluralism is fleshed out as follows: honoring patients’ choice; guaranteeing access to AYUSH practitioners and community-based health care providers; providing supervision and research to optimize integrative health care. The policy document also highlights the need for drug innovations including biopharmaceuticals for advancing Universal Health Coverage. Projected is an ambitious shift from monocultural primary healthcare to pluriform primary healthcare to be implemented through, what the policy document calls, ”health and wellness centers.” However, India’s Health Policy 2017 overlook at least three ground realities. Firstly, the Ministry for Indian Medicine’s (AYUSH) contested policy of putting local health care providers and community bounded home health care practices into one category. Secondly, the fact that the majority of state sanctioned Ayurvedic physicians practice a form of biomedicine. Thirdly, the demand for positivist proof for the efficacy of Indian medicine including biopharmaceuticals; “evidence” in the sense of what is considered as proof in the positivist discourse on evidence that dominates integrative medicine today. Through exploration of national and regional policy instruments and documents of the last two decades, the paper aims to reflect on the difficulties in grappling with pluralism and positivism when trying to integrate Indian medicine into public health. The paper also wants to examine the dilemmas of integration and alienation experienced by traditional healers in their specific local contexts.