Relief for patients as chemists call off strike

The Maharashtra State Chemists and Druggists Association, which started a three-day strike on Monday, called it off by the evening. The decision was taken after the government promised to give the chemists a hearing on December 19 as per the assurance given in the Bombay High Court to a petition filed by the chemists' association.

With the chemists calling for a strike from Monday, the 6,000 shops in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad areas were closed by late afternoon with only the 24-hour medical shops at hospitals remaining open. The shops opened only late in the evening.

State president of the chemists' association Jagannath Shinde said they had filed a writ petition to a PIL filed by an NGO against the strike. "We had filed the writ petition against the Maharashtra Essential Services and Maintenance Act (MESMA), which the government had threatened to invoke against us for going on strike. Both petitions were heard by Chief Justice Mohit Shah and the issue of the government not giving the chemists a hearing too came up to which the government pleader said they would do so on December 19. We had stated that earlier too when a petition was filed, the government had ordered for a committee to give a hearing. But even after six months there was no appointment. With the government assuring a meeting on December 19 as well as a follow-up hearing by the High Court on December 24 regarding the meeting as well as hearing of MESMA on January 20 made us decide to call off the strike,'' said Shinde.

The association had decided to observe the three-day shutdown from Monday against the "draconian" interpretation of the Drug and Cosmetics Act, 1940, by the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration. There are a total of 55,500 chemists in the state. FDA Commissioner Mahesh Zagade said since the chemists called off the strike towards late in the afternoon they had not taken any action against them. Chemists are against the FDA's new rule under which patients would have to get new prescriptions on the visit to a chemist shop, put up list of over-the-counter medicines as well as schedule on the stock of medicines, as prescribed by the Centre.

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