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Published in the 16-30 Sep 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Unani medicine towards a new dawn

By Azmathulla Shariff

Bangalore: The National Institute of Unani Medicine (NIUM) is an autonomous body and prime institution bringing the centuries-old tried and tested Unani system of medicine into the state of modern form, shape and packaging. Located on Magadi road in close proximity with nature in Bangalore, NIUM is all set to revive the lost glory of the past, as a bastion of alternative medicine. 

120-bed hospital and administrative  block at NIUM

120-bed hospital and administrative block at NIUM

The NIUM project was conceived by Government of India in collaboration with the state government of Karnataka during Deve Gowda's tenure as chief minister. The government of Karnataka provided 55 acres of land and a grant of 50 million rupees. The project is funded by the central government. So far an estimated amount of 180 million rupees has been spent to erect massive structures on the vast sprawling lush campus. The total cost of the project is estimated at 300 million rupees. A vast infrastructure has been built amidst sylvan surroundings, which includes administration and hospital blocks which houses outpatient department, wards with a capacity to accommodate 120 beds, surgical section, diagnostic centre and pharmacy.

Just at a small distance from this block located on an elevated piece of land is a grey-coloured complex, which is the post-graduate and R&D centre. This complex houses classrooms, a seminar hall. Space has been earmarked for a library, laboratories and an in-house R&D centre. Just behind this structure, a patch of three acres has been developed as a herbarium, which accommodates several varieties of medicinal plants meant for Ilmul Adwia (Science of medicine). According to Dr. Mohammad Noorulla,"our herbarium is just a small beginning. We have plans to introduce a large variety of plants in a considerably large area." This herbarium has been developed with the assistance provided by the forest department in the form of saplings. The purpose of establishing a herbarium is to facilitate in-house R&D of medicines, which will be undertaken in a phased manner by NIUM.

The institute will have general and research-based patients. In research, selected medical cases are given to specific research doctors and patients are subjected to regular observations and every development is monitored and documented for research and reference. 

The research work will be made available through journal which are to be published by the institute. It will contain articles written by experts and research papers on specific subjects. Further, the institute will have LAN connecting all major departments such as library, laboratory and R&D centre. The information will be made available for further research to anyone willing to undertake development of the Unani system of medicine. 

This institute will not just concentrate on innovations but will also serve as a hub for whatever remains unexplored in Unani.

NIUM will focus on R&D taking national priorities into consideration. "We as a national institute do not ignore the allopathic documentation and R&D. Precious work that is helpful to develop Unani formulations and research work will definitely have a place without sacrificing the Unani principles and ethics. Current process of documentation in allopathy is far ahead and we shall definitely utilise the information available to enhance Unani," says Dr. M. M. Wamiq, director of the NIUM.

The NIUM will secure the services of a host of resource persons who will be selectively picked on an all-India basis to train the budding talents at NIUM, said Dr. Amin

When the institute becomes fully operational, general wards will cater to the needs of patients and later in the second phase special arrangements would be made for those who are willing to pay for additional facilities.

Firm efforts to document the Tibb-e Unani have already begun to take root in the form of archives with a good number of books donated by revered Hakims (Unani physicians) to this institution.

Ilaj-bit-tadbir (regimental therapy) will be the main attraction of this institute for future. It is a drug-less treatment. This technique will not only be attractive to patients but will also give Unani supremacy over other systems of medicine.
This institute will provide a platform to Unani scholars to practice the age-old proven medication in close coordination with latest developments and techniques. Elaborating further on innovations in a rapidly changing scenario, Dr. Amin says, "it is advanced technology and equipment that matters the most to compete in a rapidly challenging world."

For the present NIUM is functioning with its director, two physicians, a pharmacist and is catering to a limited patient inflow. It will take some time for NIUM to become fully operational with a large staff catering to the larger needs of the society. When NIUM becomes fully operational it will have larger mass base. The aim is to serve and a beginning has been made in right earnest with absolutely free medication. NIUM is still months away from becoming fully operational. Its echo has reached not only across Karnataka but also in neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Kerala.

On Sundays, the OPD operates with relatively more patient attendance. Among the patients, Manoj Kumar and Suman, a couple from Rajasthan staying at Kamakshi Palya in Bangalore, visited NIUM for a checkup. They were informed about NIUM by a neighbour. This was his third visit to Bangalore in less than a fortnight. Manoj Kumar visited NIUM with his mother who has a a history of knee pain. When he was asked what he felt about Unani medicine, he said "my mother was suffering from knee pain for the last two years, and in just one week of medication the pain has considerably reduced. This is the sole reason for my coming here. I have faith in NIUM. This kind of goodwill is gaining momentum and is a positive sign for Unani to flourish and offer its best to those who believe in it.

However, there are no immediate promotional plans that could provide much needed support for faster growth of the Unani system of medicine. When asked about his promotional plans, Dr. Wamiq Amin said optimistically, "we don't have to release advertisements and publish expensive brochures to promote NIUM. For us just our patients are enough and they will bring a lot of goodwill".

It remains to be seen if such institutes get enough encouragement and funding to promote the alternative system of medicine and present to the world a form of medication and treatment which is free from side effects.

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