According to the Bathini Trust's website, 10 Telangana government departments support the miracle fish cure event

Fishes quacks and controversies Hyderabads miracle prasadam still holds sway
news Fish Prasadam Wednesday, June 08, 2016 - 13:25

As has become common practice for over a decade, thousands of people are expected to gather at the Exhibition Ground in Hyderabad on June 8 for a 24-hour distribution of a “miracle cure” for asthma.

The medicine consists of a yellow herbal paste (whose composition is unknown) stuffed into a 5-cm long live murrel fish, which the asthmatic is made to swallow. The makers of the medicine, the Bathini Goud family, who administer the medicine free to all comers, claim that the wriggling of the live fish clears up the phlegm in a person’s throat. They also claim that if persons receive the annual dose for three consecutive years, they would be permanently cured of asthma.

Over the years, the event has received a great amount of support from the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments. According to the Bathini Mrugasira Trust’s website, the event is supported by at least 10 Telangana government departments, with the fish for the event supplied by the Department of Fisheries, the venue prepared and barricaded by the Roads and Buildings Department and the Home Department involved in traffic and law and order maintenance.

According to reports, varying levels of state support have existed for the event since 1997, when the then chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu provided the Goud family free use of public space, first at the football fields in Nizam College and then the Exhibition Grounds.

This support comes despite strident objections from rationalist groups and other activist organisations, who claim that the “cure” is of unknown provenance, unscientific and unhygienic (since those administering the medicine thrust their fingers into thousands of throats without adequate hygiene procedures).

Over the years, fish cure has faced numerous challenges from such groups, particularly the rationalist organization Jana Vignana Kendra. One of the strongest challenges was the argument that the medicine could contain toxic concentrations of chemicals or could contain steroids. The Bathini Goud family conceded to having samples tested in laboratories. While these tests said that heavy metal concentrations were within acceptable levels and no steroids were found in the medicine, it did not provide any comment or analysis on curative components in the paste.

The one nod to rationalist objections that the Goud family have made is to stop calling their fish cure a “medicine” in order to avoid legal challenges to the event. Instead, they now refer to it as “prasadam”.

After complaints to the Drug Controller General of India, the family changed fish 'medicine' to fish 'Prasadam', which now makes it easy for them to go ahead with this," observed Narendra Nayak, President of the Federation of Indian Rationalists' Association. 

When told that the family claims that this is scientific, and "the concept is that when live fish moves, wagging it tail and fins through the throat, it clears all congestion," Nayak added that this reflected poorly on their knowledge of the human anatomy.

"Religion is a cloak for many foolish things. Even the government is aiding the family by providing the grounds, facilities like municipal workers and policemen for the event. We have always advocated for the separation of religion and state and it is sad that the state government has not yet woken up to rational thought."

The government’s support to the event has not survived without attack; in 2013, the then Andhra Pradesh Lokayukta Justice B Subhashan Reddy, had directed the government not to support or sponsor the event as there was no scientific proof of the cure. While conceding that the Goud family could continue providing their cure, public funds should not be spent on it.

In January this year, a local court in Hyderabad handed out week-long imprisonment to the Bathini Harinath Goud, the organiser and a medical and health department secretary for violating conditions laid down by the court during the distribution of fish prasadam in 2013.TOI reported that Jana Vigna Vedika had filed a petition in 2014 alleging that the organisers and the state government had violated conditions such as display of a board mentioning that it was prasadam and not medicine, washing of hands before giving the prasadam to patients and other conditions.

Yet, once again in 2016, the annual event has returned to Hyderabad, with ample public enthusiasm and substantial government support.

 

Also read: Hundreds of people queue up in Hyderabad to swallow fish

It's a joke: Scientist PM Bhargava speaks up against Hyderabad 'fish prasadam'

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