SRINAGAR: Thousands of chemist shops remained shut in Jammu—a bastion of the BJP and winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir—for three days to protest against the PDP-BJP coalition government’s decision to allow a non-state subject to open 57 pharmacy shops in violation of the Article 370, which guarantees special status to the state.
The chemists, however, called off the strike on Saturday afternoon after the Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh and Health Minister Bali Baghat assured them the State government will probe the matter.
According to chemists, Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Limited (JKMSCL) has issued a tender to a Delhi-based person to open 57 chemist shops at different government hospitals in the Jammu region on a lease basis for three years.
In the tender floated by JKMSCL for opening a chain of 24x7 pharmacy shops within the hospital premises, only permanent residents of J&K were eligible to participate in the auction, they said.
President of the Jammu Chemist Association, Naveen Bali alleged the tendering process adopted by the government was designed with malafide intent to facilitate the entry of Delhi-based ‘Sanyog Pharmaceuticals,’ which is already black-listed in PGI Chandigarh for supplying sub-standard drugs.
“On one hand, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti describes people opposing Article 370 as “anti-nationals” and on the other hand, her government is permitting a non-state subject to set up 57 pharmacy shops in the Jammu region,” he said.
Accusing the government of violating Article 370 to benefit a non-state subject, Naveen said the department has accepted the tenders of a non-state subject against the law.
“We feel this was purely done in lieu of exchange of favour. We will not allow the government to do so,” added Naveen.
Following the call of Jammu Chemist Association, the chemists in Jammu observed a 72 hour-shutdown from February 2 with thousands of chemist shops remaining shut for three days. The Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Jammu, had extended support to the strike.
State Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh and Health Minister Bali Bhagat on Saturday met the president of Jammu Chemist Association, Naveen Bali, the president of Jammu Chambers, Rakesh Gupta and other representatives of chemists and traders.
“During the meeting, the deputy CM and the Health Minister assured us that the government would conduct probe into the tendering process. They assured us that the government would probe how the non-state subject was given permission to open pharmacy shops in Jammu region,” Naveen told Express.
He said the government has assured them the matter would be probed in 15 days.
“We had been demanding CBI inquiry but the government said they will probe it themselves. We will wait for 15 days. If the government fails to probe the matter within the specified time, then the chemists will go on an indefinite strike to demand closure of pharmacy shops opened by a non-state subject,” warned Naveen.
The strike by the chemists in Jammu region is seen as a major setback for the BJP, whose main agenda is the scrapping of Article 370, which guarantees special status to J&K.
BJP, which is running a coalition government in the state with PDP, had won all its 25 Assembly seats in the Jammu region in 2014 Assembly elections.
The strike has sent a message that not only the people of Kashmir but those from Jammu also want protection of Article 370, a political commentator said.