Coronavirus outbreak: Pharmacists demand escape from police raj

Updated: 27 March, 2020 07:41 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

National chemists' body meets police and FDA officials to prevent raids over unlawful assembly, get supply chain up and running again

Local police stations will issue transit passes to those working in the pharmaceutical sector to avoid hampering supply. Pic/Satej shinde
Local police stations will issue transit passes to those working in the pharmaceutical sector to avoid hampering supply. Pic/Satej shinde

In a development that will bring much-needed relief to citizens, the national and state chemists and druggists organisations have come to an understanding to keep the supply of medicines up and running. Major depots in Bhiwandi, Pune and Nagpur that have carrying and forwarding units have started sending stock to retailers across the state.

J S Shinde, president of the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists, and Maharashtra State Chemists and Druggists Association, told mid-day on Thursday that the producers, distributors, retailers and the administration decided to keep the supply going amid the Coronavirus lockdown. Shinde explained that the promulgation of Section 144 created the misunderstanding that nobody could venture outside. “The police were ignorant of the fact that employees working in vast sectors, the smallest to the senior-most, need to work at the depots, loaders need to be allowed to reach their workplaces and the transportation of medicine in public or private vehicles needs be allowed. I have received complaints that police beat up employees and raided warehouses from where medicines were despatched to retailers. The fear of the police was so serious that people didn’t go to work even though they were allowed to,” Shinde claimed.

The situation was salvaged on Wednesday to some extent, especially after the PM interacted with Shinde via video-conferencing. “I met senior police and FDA officials. All police officers from top to bottom aren’t the same in their approach and understanding of the guidelines. The situation has improved now that top officers have given correct information to the staff on ground. They should be sensitised further,” said Shinde.

While production units are working seamlessly, but the issue is being faced in transporting the stock to depots across the country. Stock is sent from Maharashtra to distributors and retailers. Maharashtra has 70,000 retailers and 55,000 stockists. Bhiwandi, Pune and Nagpur are the warehousing hubs. Each warehouse needs at least 10 people to load and unload the stock. According to Shinde, police raided some warehouses in Bhiwandi to check unlawful assembly.

"Bhiwandi alone has 300 medicine warehouses that ensure supply to Thane, Palghar, greater Mumbai and Konkan. The police raids resulted in the non-availability of vehicles, drivers and support staff like labourers," Shinde said. During their discussion with the police and FDA, it was decided to issue transit passes to pharmacists and owners by local police stations. Retailers who use two-wheelers or private four-wheelers can travel freely to transport the stock. “Our request to the police is that people working in the sectors be treated with humanity because they all are working for public healthcare. They are not making any undue profit. There are people in each family who need medicines regularly. We don’t want any social unrest when we are able to function in association with government agencies,” said Shinde.

No. of retailers in state

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First Published: 27 March, 2020 07:06 IST

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