Hyderabad, June 6. Even as asthma patients from different parts of India have begun arriving here to take the famed fish medicine, rationalists have stepped up their campaign against the 'unscientific' treatment.
Jana Vignana Vedika, a group of rationalists, has again urged the Andhra Pradesh government to stop patronising the event, saying consumption of the 'drug' was based on 'superstition'.
The Bathini family, which has been giving away the fish free of cost for the last 160 years as a cure for asthma, is busy making preparations for the annual event to be held here June 8-9.
The administration of the 'drug' will begin June 8 at 3.42 p.m. on the Mrigasira Karti of the Hindu calendar - or the onset of monsoon - and continue for 24 hours.
With controversy surrounding the efficacy of the medicine affecting the turnout in recent years, the Bathini family has renamed the fish medicine as 'prasadam' (holy offering) this year.
Like in the past, the government is making elaborate arrangements for the event at the sprawling Exhibition Grounds.
However, Jana Vignana Vedika and the Indian Medical Association want the government to put an end to the unscientific practice.
The Vedika Sunday held a meeting to expose the 'fishy claims' of the Bathini family. The rationalists and doctors argued that the so-called fish medicine had no medicinal value and warned that the drug could result in more complications for the patients.
The Bathini family has been giving the medicine free of cost. A yellow herbal paste is first put in the mouth of the three-cm-long murrel fish and it is then pushed down throat of the patient.
If taken for three successive years, the medicine is believed to cure asthma.
Despite demands from physicians to reveal the ingredients of the herbal paste and rationalists' allegations of fraud, the Bathini family has refused to reveal the contents, saying the medicine would lose its efficacy.
The family claims that in 1845 a holy man passed on the formula for the miracle medicine to their great-great-grandfather Veranna Goud, a toddy tapper, on the promise that he would distribute it free of cost.
Last year, the Andhra Pradesh High Court, on a petition by Vedika, refused to stay the administration of the medicine but ruled that the word 'therapy' be used instead of 'medicine'.
Following the directions of the court, the government last year had displayed hoardings at the venue informing people that the medicine had no proven medicinal value.
However, the tests conducted on the court's directions did not reveal any harmful ingredients like steroids, as claimed by the rationalists and doctors.
The controversy appeared to have an impact on the turnout for the last couple of years.
An estimated 40,000 asthma patients took the fish medicine last year. This estimate was based on the number of murrel fish supplied by the fisheries department and those sold by private sellers.
The number was about 90,000 in 2004. However, the Bathini family claims that half a million people had taken medicine last year while the turnout was 700,000 in 2004.
'Despite the false propaganda by a few people, lakhs of people are taking the medicine every year because they have faith in the medicine,' said Harinath Goud, the head of the Bathini family.
The Vedika has decided to intensify its campaign against the fish medicine.
'This is nothing but exploitation the religious sentiments of gullible patients,' said R. Ramesh, general secretary of the Vedika, on the renaming of the medicine as 'prasadam'.
He, however, claims that the campaign was a success as the number of people coming to take the fish medicine was declining.
'People are realising that this is all a farce. It is high time the government stopped patronising such practices,' he said.
(Source: IANS News)