The chemists association seems unfazed by the Medical Education and Drugs Department’s decree last Friday, prohibiting the wholesalers and retailers of medical shops to stop work.
The notification, issued under the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) 2011, states, “Any service connected with maintenance of public health including hospitals and dispensaries is an essential service… therefore, the government of Maharashtra prohibits the strike with immediate effect.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will crack down on pharmacists who keep their shops shut, as the MESMA makes it mandatory for them to make medicines available to people at all times, and denies them the right to strike.
“This agitation is entirely under the ambit of law. If the government administration tries to threaten us by issuing a MESMA notification, we shall not hesitate to go on a jail bharo agitation.
We have decided to file a petition against the state administration in the high court on Monday for applying MESMA on the pharmacists,” said Anil Navandar, secretary, MSCDA.
“We have been placing our grievances before the administration for two years, but they have failed to provide us with a solution. We are compelled to start an agitation again. If they try to forcibly disrupt the strike, we might even go on an indefinite strike,” he added.
Asked what if emergency medical situations arise during the strike, he said, “The government has already made arrangements for emergency situations, so we find no need to provide our services during the period of the agitation.”
The chemists are protesting against the stringent stipulations of the FDA requiring chemist shops to sell drugs only under the supervision of a registered pharmacist and to document every medicine sale via a bill.
Though these rules are not new, the state drug watchdog has been insisting on their strict implementation for the past year, provoking chemists across the state. Despite many protests and shutdowns, the FDA is unrelenting.
Jayesh Kasat, member of the Chemist Association of Poona District (CAPD), said the raids and fines by FDA had made it impossible for chemists to survive. “If the pharmacist leaves the shop even for five minutes, the officials threaten to suspend our licence. Also, we are to issue a bill even for a Combiflam, which isn’t feasible.”
Chemists are also agitating against a new FDA rule under which patients have to get a new prescription every time for medicines they use regularly for lifetime diseases like asthma, blood pressure, diabetes, and so on. BS Masal, joint commissioner, FDA (Pune division), said, “A pharmacist is a must for a medical store and it’s one of the conditions while applying for a licence. He added, “We shall file an FIR against the agitators and they will face arrest under the act.” He added that shops affiliated to hospitals would remain open during the strike.