Chemists down shutters, warn of indefinite strike (National Roundup)

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) An estimated eight lakh chemists downed shutters across India on Tuesday against new government norms which they said would badly hit their business and warned of an indefinite strike if these were not withdrawn.

The chemists are up in arms against new rules which demand e-portal registration and updating of every purchase and sale of medicines, saying these would create hurdles in their functioning.

The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) and the Retailers and Distributors Chemist Association (RDCA), the two main bodies, questioned the need for such norms when only 10 per cent of the retailers in the country use computers.

Instead of demanding details of purchase and sale of medicines on the e-portal, the government should come up with a bar code system on medicines, they said.

“There is a need for the government to be pragmatic. If the government wants details about purchases and sales and genuineness of quality, they should come up with a bar code system,” Rajeev Bhatia, Organising Secretary of RDCA, told IANS.

Basant Goel, a senior member of both AIOCD and RDCA, said about 50 per cent of the total 15 lakh chemists all over the country remained closed on Tuesday.

“The maximum impact was felt in Delhi where up to 70 per cent of all chemists downed their shutters,” Goel told IANS. “The impact was more in some states, less in some. But our message was clear.”

RDCA said nearly 14,000 chemist shops were shut in Delhi alone on Tuesday but nearly 3,000 were allowed to do business keeping patients’ interests in mind.

A total of 8.5 million employees across India are directly involved in retail pharmacy business, Jagannath Shinde, President of AIOCD, said in Mumbai. He said 72,000 of the striking retailers were from Maharashtra.

Instead of acting against online medical suppliers, against whom the association had been protesting for two years, Bhatia asked why chemists were being told to pay one per cent on all medicine sales to the government.

Goel told IANS: “It seems that due to the new norms more than 40 per cent chemists in rural areas will have to shut down. These norms are encouraging the unethical practice of online medicine suppliers.”

Banning online medicine sale is among the demands of the retailers, who say online sellers supply drugs without prescription.

The new norms insist on sale of medicines only on the strength of prescriptions from qualified medicos.

The chemists argue this will affect their business as over 60 per cent of rural India has no qualified doctors.

Shinde said the new norms would lead to mayhem in rural India which lacks adequate internet connectivity and regular power supply.

He said presently Ayurvedic, Homeopathic and Unani doctors combine allopathic medicines to provide timely treatment to the rural masses, but they won’t be permitted to do this under the new law.

Shinde warned that if the authorities don’t respond to the just demands of the chemists, they would be forced to launch an indefinite agitation after a couple of months.

–IANS

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