Pharmacists call off strike

The Maharashtra State Chemists and Druggists Association (MSCDA) informed the Bombay High Court that they had called off their indefinite, state-wide strike scheduled to start Monday. The court, in turn, rapped the state government and said it was not serious about addressing the grievances of chemists even after a committee had been set up in this regard.

The court was acting on a PIL filed by advocate Datta Mane and a petition filed by MSCDA filed against a government notification. Mane had sought action against MSCDA for causing hardship to citizens due to the strike.

A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha expressed displeasure over the fact that irrespective of Advocate-General Darius Khambata's statement being recorded in the order, the state has been callous on their part.

"It (engaging in dialogue) was specifically mentioned in the earlier order. You are not taking it seriously," the bench told the state government. "The strike has been called off," said advocate Ashutosh Kulkarni, appearing for MSCDA.

In September, Khambata had told the court that a committee had been appointed under the medical education secretary to resolve the issues faced by chemists. Three members of this committee were office bearers of the Association of Chemists and Druggists, he had said.

Kulkarni informed the court that on September 2, Khambata had recorded a statement and said a meeting would be called within two-three weeks. However, the state convened a meeting only on December 12 in Nagpur, after the association issued a notice about the strike on December 4. He also pointed out the president of MSCDA, who happens to be one of the three committee members, could not attend the meeting owing to a professional commitment and this had been conveyed

before the meeting.

Despite this, Kulkarni submitted, the state issued a notification, invoking the Maharashtra Essential Services and Maintenance Act (MESMA) on December 13.

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