While miscreant chemists are threatening to hold the state to ransom for three days come December 16, their honest counterparts have appealed to the state government to take the strictest action against those who shut shop in a bid to deprive patients of medicines.
Of the 55,000 chemist shops in Maharashtra, around 20,000 chemists will defy the call for a strike and keep their shops open.
On December 7, some chemists wrote to the chief minister Prithviraj Chavan stating that they were being coerced by the Maharashtra State Chemists and Druggists Association (MSCDA) to forcefully shut shop despite their unwillingness to participate in the pan-state strike.
“The call for strike is illegal. Sections of the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2011, and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act should be slapped on the errant chemists. We will not participate in the strike,” stated the letter, a copy of which is with dna.
Up to four associations are opposing the strike in Maharashtra, including Akhil Bhartiya Pharmacists Welfare Association, Pharmaceutical Teachers Association, Hospital Pharmacists Association and Union of Registered Pharmacists (URP).
“We have received 20,000 endorsements from chemists and pharmacists from all quarters. They said they abhor the call to strike and will not support it. The strike has already been diluted by 50% in terms of strength,” said Umesh Khakke, a member of URP.
Khakke said that officials of the regulatory authority Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) were supporting the chemists in their decision to keep shops open.
“FDA commissioner Mahesh Zagade has assured us that the home department and police superintendents in all districts will be instructed to provide special protection to chemists who face the threat of intimidation or damage for keeping their shops open,” Khakke added.
In the past year, MSCDA has called for strike five times, alleging that the FDA is carrying out a very stringent crackdown on chemists in the state operating without qualified pharmacists.
FDA firm on drive
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will continue its drive against medical stores for violation of rules, notwithstanding protests from the shop owners, minister of state for home Satej Patil said in the Legislative Council on Thursday.
He also appealed to the Association of Medical Stores to not strike work and instead engage in dialogue with the government. However, he ruled out any relaxation in the drive.
Responding to a calling attention motion of Congress MLC Sanjay Dutt, Patil insisted that the FDA’s drive is being done to ensure people’s safety. He added that a pharmacist is a must for a medical store and it’s one of the conditions while applying for a licence. Therefore, he added, owners should not find it difficult to appoint a pharmacist.