After proposing that cow urine be used to clean government office floors and integrating questionable ancient science history into the Indian Science Congress, the government now wants to know if traditional Indian medical practices can be used to cure cancer.

Speaking at a symposium to mark World Cancer Day on Wednesday, Shripad Yesso Naik, minister of state for AYUSH (ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homeopathy) asked scientists to systematically evaluate the role these medical systems could play in curing cancer. Naik had been invited to talk at a session called ”AYUSH in Cancer Care”.

“We must emphasise highlighting the solutions that do exist or can be developed from AYUSH systems to help controlling the menace of cancer and which are within our reach and resources,” said Naik.

According to the World Health Organisation, cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Tobacco use causes 20% of cancer deaths.

While asking scientists to start research in this field, Naik also expounded on the “strong fundamental principles, time-tested experiences and holistic concepts of application” of these medicines to treat patients and also on the lifestyle modifications that could contain the incidence of cancer. Modern medicine, he added, might not be enough to “meet health needs of the society ailing with this dreaded disease”.

This is in keeping with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s interest in traditional medicine. In its general election manifesto, the BJP had promised to fund research into ayurgenomics, a questionable field of genome research. At the Indian Science Congress in Mumbai last month, environment minister Prakash Javdekar to promised to fund research into Vedic sources of scientific knowledge.

The Department of AYUSH was established under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2003 under the Atal Behari Vajpayee government. In November, the Modi government made it a separate ministry, with Naik at its head. The ministry has already set up a research portal that brings together documents on the six medical practices. However, it also has a disclaimer saying that it is not responsible for the findings of any of the papers found there.