Rationalists slam TDP, JSP for demanding resumption of COVID-19 brinjal ‘cure’

Alleging inefficiency by the ruling party, the TDP and JSP have demanded the government to do away with the restrictions and redistribute the untested herbal “cure”.
A huge queue of people lined up to avail the herbal medicine
A huge queue of people lined up to avail the herbal medicine

In several states, opposition parties have been playing a constructive role in demanding accountability from the government regarding data mismatch and by providing suggestions to handle the COVID-19 crisis better; but in stark contrast a peculiar kind of politics is playing out in Andhra Pradesh related to the crisis, where the opposition Telugu Desam Party and Jana Sena Party — sensing the public mood — are demanding the government to resume the distribution of untested and unscientific “Anandiah herbal medicines” which the herbalist claims can “cure” COVID-19. The eye-drops peddled by Anandiah are made out of brinjal, honey and tailed pepper.

Endorsing Bonigi Anandaiah, who is credited for developing the “medicine”, TDP’s Somireddy Chandra Mohan Reddy and JSP leader Ketham Reddy Vinod Reddy have demanded the government to reestablish a public facility along with police protection, or face the wrath of the people. This, despite scores of people who were administered the eye-drops suffering from chemical conjunctivitis. And it is not just the TDP or JSP who are endorsing this quackery, effectively all parties including the ruling YSRCP have given their support for Anandaiah.

Defying government orders, YSRCP MLA from Sarvepalli Kakani Govardhan Reddy had organised a large distribution drive in Krishnapatnam last week, while the “medicine” was being “studied” at an Ayurvedic lab in Vijayawada. Anandiah has developed five kinds of medicines which allegedly cure COVID-19. This includes eye-drops, which is a concoction of honey, brinjal and pepper, given for patients with low saturation of oxygen.

Calling the behaviour of political parties who are endorsing the quackery as “criminal”, social scientist from Telangana PL Vishweshwar Rao has demanded that politicians refrain from their anti-science stance which could potentially endanger scores of people, desperate to save their lives. “It is purely criminal for the political parties to encourage quackery. Already several people are suffering with eye infection, and at this juncture, demanding its resumption based on ‘public demand’ is highly irresponsible,” Vishweshwar Rao said.

Rao noted that Andhra is not isolated in this phenomenon, and that it is prevalent across the country. “Anti-science, anti-logic and irrationalism has been promoted under the present regime. How can a Vice President ask Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to conduct a study on this alleged medicine, which gives credence to it?” he asked. Vice- President Venkaiah Naidu who hails from Nellore in Andhra Pradesh on May 21 had asked Union Minister for AYUSH Kiren Rijiju, and Indian Council of Medical Research Director Balram Bhargava, to conduct a study on the “medicine”.

Rao cited the government’s silence regarding yoga teacher Ramdev, who has mocked modern medicine and remarked that “allopathy is a stupid science,” to substantiate his claim that the  BJP-led Union government is undermining scientific temper.

Slamming the politics around the “medicine”, Dr Shaik Kalesha Basha, Assistant Professor at Nellore Government Medical College, who is also a member of Jana Vignana Vedika, a forum that promotes rationalism, said, “Politicians should not indulge in this. This is not their realm. Leave it to the scientists and experts in the field to determine if that medicine should be administered or not. It is highly unethical and immoral to play such dangerous politics,” he said, condemning the political parties. According to Dr Kalesha Basha, who works in the general surgery department, so far nearly 100 patients who took Anandiah’s eye-drops have come to the Nellore Government Hospital for eye treatment.

Former Minister Somireddy Chandra Mohan Reddy from TDP on Wednesday said that there is a public outcry for the ‘herbal medicine’, and alleged that Anandiah is being “detained and forced to make the medicines for MLA Kakani Govardhan Reddy’s relatives and associates.” Similarly, JSP leader Ketham Reddy Vinod Reddy alleged that the MLA is “secretly making the medicines and distributing it to his people.” Both these leaders demanded that the government remove all restrictions against the distribution of the brinjal-based eye-drops, and resume administering the medicines to the general public.

At present, Anandiah’s “medicine” has undergone “phase I trials”, held jointly by the Regional Ayurvedic Research Centre in Vijayawada, and the Sri Venkateswara Ayurveda College in Tirumala. Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) under the AYUSH ministry, is monitoring this research. The “phase I trial” is nothing but feedback from the patients who were administered with the concoctions. According to officials, “570 respondents participated in the trial.”

Describing the politicisation of the crisis in Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad-based political commentator K Nageshwar Rao said, “Every political party is trying to get mileage from this issue. Because political parties are not interested in scientific temper, they are interested in vote casting. So they are doing emotional politics. So obviously when there is emotion riding in favour of Anandiah, they want to exploit it.” 

Stating that it is convenient for the opposition parties to make such demands at the expense of lives of the people, he added, “The TDP can make such a demand, but if something happens to the people, they won’t be held accountable, because they are not in power. They can play it both ways.”

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