The Madhya Pradesh government has denied reports that its hospitals are going to deploy astrologers to help assist doctors in treating patients visiting its hospitals.

On Sunday, the New Indian Express on Sunday carried a report saying that the Madhya Pradesh government was planning to start an astrology outpatient department, or astro-OPD, where astrologers will provide consultation to visitors. Other news outlets reported that the government was planning to set up these astro-OPDs in government hospitals.

But, PR Tiwari, director of the state-run Maharshi Patanjali Sanskrit Sansthan, which is the nodal agency for promoting yoga and Sanskrit, clarified to Scroll.in that his organisation is setting up astrology consultations at a yoga centre in Bhopal.

Tiwari had told the New Indian Express that, “like OPDs where junior doctors work under the supervision of seniors, aspiring astrologers will assist astro experts in dealing with various kinds of cases in the astro OPDs”.

However, Tiwari told Scroll.in that is facility is not really an OPD but a consultation centre.

“The scheme is limited to a yoga centre in Bhopal where people could consult astrologers and vastu experts their problems that might not be related to health but other things such as marriage, education or jobs,” he said.

The state health minister Rustam Singh called speculation about astro-OPDs at hospitals absurd and insisted to Scroll.in that no such move had been discussed. “Media persons saying that there would be astro-OPDs in government hospitals should have taken care to at least talk to a government authority to know if the information was correct,” he said.

Principal secretary for health Gauri Singh said: “I am amused at the news. This is absurd, unfounded and it is not possible at all.”

Not a health matter

Other Madhya Pradesh health department officials reiterated that there is no question of bringing astrologers into health facilities to advise patients. Moreover, they said that the department would not allow a yoga centre or any facility offering alternative medicine call their consultation centres “OPDs”.

“We promote and encourage modern medical science for treatment of patients and astrology has absolutely no place,” a senior health department officer who did not want to be identified.

He added that the matter of a yoga centre deploying astrologers for consultation was a decision that could be taken by the department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani Siddha and Homoeopathy or AYUSH. “We have nothing to do with that,” he clarified.

Despite this, a senior official from the AYUSH department said that he had not heard about the Sansthan’s proposed yoga and astrology consultation centre either.

Meanwhile, the Sansthan’s deputy director Prashant Dolas said the yoga centre was already giving advice to people on how to cure diseases with the help of yoga. “We will add astrology and vaastu to it,” he said.

Promoting astrology

The Maharshi Patanjali Sanskrit Sansthan is run by the state department of education and has been administering Sanskrit education in 143 government schools of the state since its inception in 2008.

According to Tiwari, the astro-OPD is being set up to help establish that astrology is not hunch but a calculative science.

The Maharshi Patanjali Sanskrit Sansthan is starting diploma courses in astrology in September this year and so came up with the idea of having astrology trainees aid astrologers at the yoga centre.

The Madhya Pradesh School Education Department is also including astrology in the Sansthan’s syllabus as a vocational course, for the first time. Two other vocational courses of traditional practices will also be offered – vaastu and priesthood. The Banaras Hindu University is the only other institution in India that offers a one-year diploma course in astrology, said Tiwari.

The Sansthan already conducts examinations in astrology at high school and higher secondary levels, that is for classes nine to 12.

The three new diploma courses are the brainchild of School Education Minister Kunwar Vijay Shah, who says the aim is to create a rich pool of astrology and vaastu experts to help clients in the country and abroad. The three courses will have 30 seats for students who have completed their education up to class 12. Students enrolled for the astrology diploma course will be taught about Hindu karmakand, or rituals, performed at occasions like marriages and house warmings.

“There will be no caste barrier for applying for enrollment to these courses, but preference will be given to those who are well-versed with modern technologies,” said Tiwari. “We want to produce experts who can work with modern gadgets by using the ancient wisdom.”