The regulatory body of pharmacists in Maharashtra is in troubled waters after the arrest of a clerk of the Maharashtra State Pharmacy Council (MSPC) for accepting a bribe.
Dhanaji J Jadhav, was held by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Monday for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs25,000 from a pharmacist, seeking transfer of his licence from Bihar to Maharashtra.
“Jadhav later settled for a sum of Rs 20,000 to carry out the license transfer procedure,” said Sandeep Karnik, superintendent, Thane ACB.
The complainant, who has a degree in pharmacy, hails from Bihar and wanted to work in Maharashtra. Transfer of licence is mandatory before a person from outside Maharashtra can practice in the state.
The demand for pharmacists in the state has gone up since the crackdown by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on chemists operating without qualified pharmacists.
Vijay Patil, chairman, MSPC, confirmed that there had been an increase in candidates from Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh and that these candidates were approaching the council seeking transfer of licence.
“Earlier, we conducted an exam to verify the knowledge of pharmacists from outside the state. But the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) instructed us against this. So, now we only verify documents before transferring the licences,” Patil told dna.
Currently, 1.6 lakh pharmacists with diplomas or degrees in pharmacy are registered with the MSPC and the numbers are swelling in the absence of thorough checks and balances.
Activists from the Union of Registered Pharmacists (URP) have raised questions on the functioning of the MSPC.
“The state council is spoiling the future of pharmacists of Maharashtra. URP demands a CBI probe in the matter. Until investigation is completed, the elected body should be dissolved and an administrator should be appointed for the MSPC,” said Umesh Khake, president, URP.
Khake said the FDA had sent complaints of close to 200 pharmacists, some of them who worked in more than two places at the same time including other violations under the Pharmacy Regulation Act,1945, to the MSPC for action. “Till now, only 38 hearings have occurred. MSPC has merely issued warnings to pharmacists and let them go. There is no provision of warnings in the Pharmacy Regulation Act, 1945. In spite of such wrongdoings, licenses of errant pharmacists have not been suspended or canceled,” said Khake.
FDA commissioner Mahesh Zagade said, “Efficient functioning of the MSPC will lead to prosecution of pharmacists. After the council receives complaints of errant pharmacists, it should take measures to penalize the guilty pharmacists.”
URP has also written to the Union health minister about pharmacy certificates being issued to candidates by some colleges without their attending classes.
A senior office-bearer of a Mumbai-based pharmacy college told dna, “It’s a vicious circle. Pharmacists are migrating from Jharkhand and Bihar as good salaries are offered here. But the pharmacy colleges from where they come don’t have faculty or infrastructure as required under the norms.”
“It is very easy to get a transfer of licence to practice in Maharashtra, or for that matter a diploma in pharmacy. These candidates do not attend college; they have no knowledge of medicine. At times, transfer of licence is issued through bogus certificates or bribing of officials as we have seen in this case,” said Hakim Kapasi, president, North West Chemists Association, Mumbai.