Roadside quacks: Healing touch or potential threat?

Huge crowd under a flyover in Purania area of Lucknow gives an impression of a weekly market where people buy articles of daily use at throwaway prices, but actually the area is thronged by patients visiting quacks for the treatment of bone and joint problems.At least nine quacks, who are not registered medical practitioners, run their shops illegally under this flyover.

lucknow Updated: Jul 18, 2018 15:54 IST
Oliver Fredrick
Oliver Fredrick
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Roadside quacks,Healing touch,Threat
Roadside quacks attending to patients under Purania flyover on Sitapur road in Lucknow.(Oliver Fredrick/ HT Photo)

Huge crowd under a flyover in Purania area of Lucknow gives an impression of a weekly market where people buy articles of daily use at throwaway prices, but actually the area is thronged by patients visiting quacks for the treatment of bone and joint problems.

At least nine quacks, who are not registered medical practitioners, run their shops illegally under this flyover.

While some can be seen fixing dislocated bones of patients, others give massage or apply a yellow balm on the affected parts of a patient’s body.

There are numerous roadside OPDs throughout the state which are flourishing right under the nose of the government.

Chief medical officer (CMO), Lucknow, Dr Narendra Agarwal says the health department carries out raids against illegal medical practitioners from time to time.

“It is often difficult to book them since we don’t have any proof against them. We take action once someone approaches us with a written complaint,” says Agarwal.

Habib Ahmed Qureshi, 70, boasts of treating bureaucrats, people from well-off families and national level sportspersons.

“I have been fixing broken bones, twisted ankles, body pain and injuries for the last 40 years. Besides many influential people, I have treated many national sportspersons who are quite often seen in newspapers,” he says.

Interestingly, Qureshi has never been to school and has no medical qualification.

Habib Qureshi says his shop, known as ‘Kamlu Imli Ke Neche Waley’, is one of the oldest in the city.

Initially, my shop was in old city but I shifted to Purania in 2004. By Allah’s grace, there has been no dip in the strength of patients,” he says.

He charges Rs 15 for his service and attends to about 20-30 patients a day.

The poster at his shop reads that patients suffering from arthritis, chronic knee pain, swelling in knee, joint dislocation, ligament injuries and neck pain are treated through massage.

“It was my father who passed on the ‘art of healing’ to me. I started off by assisting my father Mohammed Siddique, a wrestler-turned-message therapist way back in 1970s,” he adds.

“In those times, wrestling used to be one of the modes of entertainment. The rate of muscle and bone injuries was quite high then and masseurs were much in demand. My father was a well-known masseur of his times,” he claims.

Munna, locally known as ‘Pappu maalish waley’, hails from Saharanpur and got settled in Lucknow about a decade ago.

“We can diagnose the problem just by touching or seeing the affected part of the body. We are well aware of the skeletal system,” says Munna.

Another quack Ram Kumar says their techniques are different from that of doctors who just have bookish knowledge.

“Books won’t help unless you have a practical approach. My father, who was also a masseur, used to say that ‘Padhey hue se zyada kadha hua hona zaruri hai’ (being skilled is more important that being schooled),” he says.

One of the quacks, who did not wish to be named, says: “Medical profession nowadays is all about making money. We are serving the society in its true sense as we heal people at a small fee of Rs 10, 15 or 20. We also offer free treatment to those who are unable to pay.”

Though these quacks and masseurs don’t have a valid license, this does not make any dent to their following.

Not only patients from Lucknow but people from neighbouring districts like Kanpur, Unnao, Bara Banki and Sultanpur also visit them.

“It hardly matters that they do not have a degree. They have power to cure and that too at such a low fee. Regular doctors charge hefty amounts to render the same service,” says Rohit Giri, a resident of Vikas Nagar, who had come for second sitting with Qureshi.

“I met an accident three days ago and suffered injuries in my right shoulder. I went to a doctor who said only surgery can help restore the movement of my shoulder joint. Somebody told me about ‘Qureshi chacha’. In the first sitting, he gave me a massage and applied some balm on my shoulder. I can feel the change that is why I am here for a second sitting,” Giri says.

Suresh Kushwaha, a resident of Old Lucknow, met an accident two weeks ago in which he sustained injuries on his shoulder.

“I went to the doctor who performed a surgery on my shoulder and assured me normal movement. However, when the plaster was removed, I noticed I could not raise my hand. I visited a masseur here who applied a balm and gave me a massage. In just three sittings, my hand’s movement got fully restored. Since then, I am referring all my near and dear ones to them,” he says.

ACTION MISSING

Though these quacks have been operating openly, health department’s action against them comes only in fits and starts.

Health department officials say no data is available to ascertain the spread of the menace but claim that campaigns are launched from time to time to check their activities.

However, it was way back in 2015 when the district administration had nabbed a masseur, Kallu, and no drive has been launched since then.

In-charge of control room at the CMO office, Lucknow, Dr SK Saxena says drive against quacks is an ongoing process expresses helplessness in keeping tabs on quacks due to shortage of staff.

“The health department has been taking action against quacks in the past. Since we have limited resources and are short of staff, it is difficult to keep constant vigil on them. We will certainly initiate action if there is a complaint,” says Saxena.

WORD OF CAUTION

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Harish Makkar says going to quacks may be dangerous at times.

“We are flooded with cases where the condition of patients deteriorates after visiting quacks. In 1989, a patient from a rural area of Lucknow visited me. He had suffered a femur fracture and approached a quack. He tied his leg so tight with bamboo sticks that blood circulation stopped,” he says.

“The patient was in such a bad condition that his leg had to be amputated,” recalls Dr Makkar, who has expertise in pelvic-acetabular, arthroscopic and joint replacement surgeries.

Dr Makkar says quacks are generally good at handling dislocations, which is also easy.

“This is the lone reason why they succeed in gaining credence. Handling dislocations is one thing and managing fractures is altogether a different thing. A few months ago, a young boy approached a quack with a fractured hand. The quack put his hand in a plaster, ignoring the fact that the chances of swelling are more in the first 48 hours of fracture. Eventually, the boy’s hand had to be amputated as swelling choked the veins and stopped blood circulation,” he adds.

“If people want cheap medical services, it is better to go government hospitals than visiting such quacks,” Dr Makkar says.

First Published: Jul 18, 2018 15:50 IST