Patna: Thousands of medicine (drug) shops across Bihar remained closed on Wednesday as three-day statewide strike began to protest against the "harassment, exploitation and unwanted pressure from the government officials".
Three-day strike of the pharmacies including retailers as well as wholesalers from Jan 22 to 24 was called by Bihar Chemist and Druggist Association after negotiation over their demands with the Health Department officers failed. Their main demands include stop cancellation of licenses of medicine shops for lack of pharmacists, harassment by drug inspectors in the name inspection of drug shops to exploitation.
“All 35,000 medicine stores will be closed for three days across Bihar. We have no option but to strike as a part of the protest,” president of Association, Parsan Kumar Sinha, said.
Sinha threatened that if the government uses force or puts pressure to end our strike, the pharmacists will go for an indefinite strike.
Sinha said that medicine shops in hospital premises and emergency drug stores have been kept out of the strike.
A retail medicine shop owner Manoj Kumar in Patna said drug inspectors have been exploiting medicine shops under one or the other pretext. “I am a pharmacist myself and run a drug shop, but drug inspectors regularly demand bribes and harass us in the name of inspection. This should end.”
Another medicine shopkeeper Ramakant Prasad said that the medicine business has been badly hit by the high handedness of the medicine department officials who exploit us for several reasons.
Three-days strike of the Association was supported by the Bihar Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI). “The government should consider genuine demands in view of their strike that affects all and retail medicine shopkeepers should not be harassed,” said president of the BCCI P K Agarwal.
Association said that the decision of the government to appoint pharmacists in every medicine shop is not possible, as there are only 7,500 pharmacists in the state. There are four pharmacy colleges in Bihar that can produce 240 pharmacists with a diploma in two years.
According to a release by the Association, pharmacists are not keen on working in rural areas and it is impossible for small-scale medicine shops to hire pharmacists on minimum Rs 10,000 monthly remuneration in semi-urban and rural areas.
However, an association of pharmacists has opposed the strike of Bihar Chemist and Druggist Association. “There are 25,500 registered pharmacists in the state and 12 pharmacy colleges including private ones. Even pharmacists working outside the state would return to work in the home state if they get an opportunity,” said Arvind Kumar Choudhary, president of Pharmacists’ Association.
With strike of medicine shops underway, thousands of people were seen running from one emergency medicine shop to another—that are far from each other—for life-saving drugs. This will continue for next two days.