Pharmacists’ diploma recognition issue

Abrogation of Article 370 has brought drastic changes to the UT of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh. The most important one has been the implementation of Indian laws, rules and regulations, some of which were not applicable in erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir. All laws that are prevalent in the rest of India required the approval of the State Assembly and Legislative Council before being implemented under the Ranbir Penal Code, commonly known as the RPC. Numerous anomalies created unnecessary roadblocks between the Centre and the State of Jammu and Kashmir, like the fact that no outsider could be admitted to our medical colleges. At the time of filling out the NEET form, candidates had to declare whether they wanted to participate in the all-India pool or the state pool. The GoI somewhat kept on adjusting such roadblocks, but with the Article 370 abrogation, all such anomalies are no longer accepted. Whatever laws, rules and regulations are applicable in the rest of India are now being implemented in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh. With this, a peculiar situation has arisen for 2400 Medical Assistants and Pharmacists in Government service and more than 22000 candidates who had either completed or were pursuing the course of study for the Medical Assistant or Pharmacist from the institutions duly recognized by the erstwhile J&K Para Medical Council at that time but were not registered under the J&K Pharmacy Act. A license under the provisions of the Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1940 and its rules is required for any pharmacist; however, in Jammu and Kashmir, being a special case, no such license was required for the Government job. Because of this, these 2400 Government employees and another 22000 never applied for the license separately. With the replacement of the J&K Pharmacy Act by the Central Pharmacy Act in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, only those having completed B Pharma or Pharma D Course from a PCI-approved institution are now eligible for registration and carrying out the practice and profession of pharmacy. The rest are unrecognized and cannot apply for the job nor do private work or practice. The only viable solution is an amendment to the act, for which approval from Parliament is required. Twice, the Administrative Council had sent the proposal, but twice it had been rejected based on the technical language used. Two years have passed in this process overall, but no solution has emerged. Now again, AC has given its approval a third time for an amendment to the Pharmacy Act to sort things out.
Pharmacists are the backbone of any hospital, and an unrecognized diploma has its repercussions. Withdrawal of salaries, inspection by MCI, and resultant adverse reports. Every hospital has to send all the relevant data of employees for scrutiny to MCI for recognition and license, and with an unrecognized diploma employee list, there is a risk of suspension of the hospital’s license or time-to-time grants for the hospital. The situation is complicated. These Pharmacists have been under mental trauma for more than two years now, and this issue should get the immediate attention of authorities. It is a question of the future for thousands of Pharmacists. These Pharmacists have given several presentations to the authorities concerned. In the past, they had held protest demonstrations as well, but the issue has not been resolved. Those in charge of the whole process must understand the gravity of the situation and have to pursue the case relentlessly to resolve it. Lack of proper communication and coordination has led to this peculiar situation. It is a long process of referral from UT to the Home Ministry and from there to the Health and Medical Education Department, which will refer it to Parliament for any necessary amendments, and then a notification will be issued. The administration has given the nod for third time to amend the bill, and one hopes that this time things move in the right direction.