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History of ICMR-National Institute of Traditional Medicine (Formerly known as RMRC Belagavi)

During the Sixth Five Year Plan Period (1980-85), the concept of ICMR-National Institute of Traditional Medicine (Formerly known as RMRC Belagavi) was evolved in the ICMR, under which a few Centres were to be established in different regions of the country to undertake research into the health problems of the respective regions. This was in contrast to the mandates of the existing institutions of the ICMR, which were essentially oriented towards a single disease or a group of related diseases/health problems. The idea was that the RMRCs would address issues of local/regional relevance, as the health problems of one region are vastly different from those of another on account of demographic characteristics; geographical, climatic and other environmental influences; literacy levels; socio-economic development etc. The Governing Body of the ICMR approved, in principle, the establishment of a NITM (Formerly RMRC) at Bangalore (later shifted to Belagavi) at its 50th meeting held on 2nd May 1980. Thus, RMRCs were set up at Bhubaneswar (Orissa), Dibrugarh (Assam), Port Blair (Andaman & Nicobar Islands); Jodhpur (Rajasthan), and Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh).

The establishment of NITM (Formerly RMRC) Belagavi was approved through EFC in 1994, and the construction of Main Laboratory and Office Building, Animal House, Residential Quarters, Guest House, Electric Sub-station, Internal Roads, Water Supply, etc was sanctioned at a total cost of Rs. 17.58 Crores. In addition, 106 posts were approved with the recommendation to approach the Department of Expenditure for creation of these posts (Minutes of the EFC are attached as Annexure-1).

The Compound Walls around 25 acres of land provided by the State Government, Staff Quarters, Guest House, and other infrastructural facilities like Electricity, Water, Internal Roads, etc were created subsequently by the State PWD. But the construction of Main Laboratory and Office Building could not be done due to paucity of funds and shift of priority at that particular time. Approved number of 106 posts was also not created. ICMR requested for sanction of Group A posts to the Ministry of Health in 2001 but the Ministry asked ICMR to make the main building first in a reply in 2002. The construction of Staff Quarters took priority over construction of the Main Building as site of NITM (Formerly RMRC) Belagavi was, at that point of time an obscure place where facilities needed to be created first to attract reasonably good manpower.

Since 2004 however, the Council started to transfer some posts from other ICMR Institutes to NITM (Formerly RMRC) Belagavi and the efforts were made to process the proposal for seeking fresh EFC/SFC approvals to the changed scope of the scheme. By this time, the health needs and requirements had also undergone some major modifications. After several deliberations it was decided that NITM (Formerly RMRC) Belagavi would work with Herbal Medicine as the thrust area of research, keeping in tune with the National Health Priorities of the Govt. of India. The Centre was envisaged as a major Resource Centre for development of herbal technologies and products for prevention and treatment of major diseases like metabolic and hepatic disorders, ulcer, enteric diseases, etc. It was given the mission to bridge the gap between traditional and herbal medicines. The Centre was dedicated to focus on medicinal plant research to develop as alternate modes of therapy for the chronic diseases, cancer and drug resistant infections, targeted mostly for the marginalized and poorer sections of the society. Despite constraints, NITM (Formerly RMRC) started to function with the skeletal staff and basic infrastructure available during 2004. The facilities available were about 25 acres of boundary land, Staff Quarters, Guest House, and Electric Sub-Station. The Centre started functioning with makeshift laboratories and offices made in the staff quarters. Scientific activities simultaneously started with research projects, both with intra and extramural funding. About Rs. 5.0 Crores Extramural Research grant has been generated by the Centre till date with regular intramural activities. In the course of time, one more building consisting of 8 Type IV quarters were also utilized as laboratories for various divisions like Ethnobotany and Ethnomedicine, Phytochemistry, Microbiology & Molecular Biology, Plant tissue culture and Biotechnology, Operational Research, and Experimental Pharmacology during 2004 to 2012. Server room and library, committee room, and the administrative sections are also housed in these quarters. Garages have been converted into temporary Freezer Rooms, Stores and rooms for equipments that would not enter through the doors of those apartments. A Museum of Ethnomedicinal Plants of Western Ghats has been established in another building consisting of two Type V quarters. A Herbal Garden consisting of more than 370 important and rare medicinal plants of the region has been developed in the campus. At present there are 29 permanent staff transferred from elsewhere to NITM (Formerly RMRC) Belagavi. In FY 2013-2014 alone 19 of the 29 posts were transferred to sustain and build upon the activities. The main activities carried out so far are:

  • Scientific validation of Herbal Medicine (phytochemistry, efficacy, safety, mode of action and clinical trials)
  • Prevalence of diseases at regional level and the role of Herbal Medicine in treating these diseases
  • Creation of database for Ethnomedicinal plants of Western Ghats
  • Improvement of infra-structural facilities and strengthening human resources in Herbal and Traditional Medicine
  • Close collaboration with traditional/herbal medicine practitioners in the region to:
  • Create general awareness
  • Promote scientific temperament and
  • Collect, collate and disseminate scientific information on herbal medicine.
  • Lends support to the State health authorities in investigation of outbreaks, lends laboratory, infrastructural support and expertise in the relevant fields of interest.
  • Serving as a nodal Centre in the South Western Region of the Country in implementation of various national research programmes like ICMR Task Force Project on National Rotavirus Surveillance Network (to identify if rotavirus should be included in the Universal Immunization Programme of Govt of India), Micromapping of G6PD deficiency in tribal population of India, etc.
  • Mentoring and setting up a Model Rural Health Research Centre, one of the flagship schemes of the Dept of Health Research at Raichur District, Karnataka.
  • One of the 20 Bio-Medical Informatics Centres of ICMR that lends bioinformatics support to regional Medical Colleges, Hospitals, and academic and research institutions.