By Arré Bench May. 07, 2020
The Indian Council of Medical Research has its hand full. But in the middle of a pandemic, it received a letter from the Jal Shakti Ministry, asking if they could spare some time to research if Gangajal could be used to treat Covid-19 patients.
Earlier this week, a board associated with the Jal Shakti Ministry asked the Indian Council of Medical Research — which has been our country’s greatest weapon to fight the coronavirus pandemic — whether Gangajal could cure Covid-19.
The question originated in a letter submitted by the NGO, Atulya Ganga. Its founder, Major Manoj Keshwar (retd), claimed that someone had used science to discover anti-microbial properties in the holy Ganga. These “phages” that he claims target bacteria, could either be called “Ninja Virus”, or “Gangtva”.
The letter requesting that an investigation be carried out, was addressed to the Jal Shakti Ministry’s “National Mission for Clean Ganga” department, and promptly forwarded to the ICMR, which was asked if it would help the fight against Covid-19.
On Wednesday, The Print reported that the ICMR had finally reviewed the paper, and came back with a response. Quite understandably, the answer was no.
“The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has turned down the Narendra Modi government’s “request” to conduct research on a theory that Gangajal, or water from Ganga river, could possibly cure Covid-19”https://t.co/RzJKNFtnU9
— AnnieZaidi (@anniezaidi) May 6, 2020
The point that led to the argument’s downfall, according to the report, was that the Jal Ministry didn’t have any concrete indication that hospitals and doctors were “ready and willing” to research this cure.
“As of now, we are still treating plasma therapy as a trial for treatment for corona, then how can we so quickly accept a virus called bacteriophage,” an official said.
Social media users, including prominent personality Tehseen Poonawalla didn’t put in as much effort into mincing their words.
Just what do you say to this. Honestly hona’ble @PMOIndia should be embarrassed and the @narendramodi ji government must be hauled up for diverting resources during a #pandemic in which our fellow citizens are struggling. Insane . #Covid_19https://t.co/BlfMN9howq
— Tehseen Poonawalla Official (@tehseenp) May 7, 2020
But this isn’t the first time the exact same claim has originated, even if it’s the first time it’s happening during a global health disaster. NDTV reported back in 2015, that scientists wanted to study if Gangajal had self-cleansing properties.
Their curiosity had stemmed from previous studies by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, in Nagpur, and IIT-Kanpur, which had indicated that the water from the Ganga contained a “killer virus” that attacks bacteria.
As it turns out, back then, the Jal Shakti Ministry’s question would have found some takers in the ICMR, as well. The organisation’s previous chief, Soumya Swaminathan, is quoted as saying — and this may sound familiar — that a “high concentration of bacterio-phages may account for the purifying properties of Ganga Water”. The former director general had also said that the ICMR would investigate further.
The scientists who proposed the study in 2015, meanwhile, had said that the research would help fight Multidrug Resistant infections. But now that the ICMR has rejected the NGO’s letter, it looks like they might have to wait for the next pandemic to take it further.