Plug loopholes to make syringe ban effective: Chemists

Jalandhar: Implemented since yesterday in the district, the ban on the sale or purchase of syringes in the district – from July 6 to September 9 – in keeping with the state government’s curbs on drugs— has had a mixed response from chemists and doctors alike.

Aparna Banerji

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 7 

Implemented since yesterday in the district, the ban on the sale or purchase of syringes in the district – from July 6 to September 9 – in keeping with the state government’s curbs on drugs— has had a mixed response from chemists and doctors alike. While many chemists claim they have been abiding by the rules for the past five years, they quickly point out that this is no solution to the drug problem. 

With online portals, wholesalers and dustbins providing addicts with their regular supply or syringes, chemists say unless serious curbs are introduced, the government’s move wouldn’t do much to check the drug menace.  

While there are 11,000 to 12,000 chemists in Jalandhar district, as many as 600 of them are in the city. While chemists welcome the decision to ban syringes – unless they are formally prescribed by a doctor or physician – they term the decision as merely aimed at putting pressure on the chemists for want of a better option with the government. 

Questioning the government’s intent, some of them say while the action is fine, it should not mean undue harassment of chemists rather than real action to curb the supply chain of addicts. 

Sources also tacitly point out the existence of about 30 to 35 odd retailers-cum-wholesalers in the district who have been selling syringes and shady drugs with impunity, without demanding prescriptions or issuing bills and without having been penalised.

A Jalandhar-based chemist  said, “While the retailers grow poorer, there is no action being initiated against those wholesalers who play with people’s lives. They pass bulk orders at heavily discounted prices and sideline the retailers and there is no check at what they might be selling.”     

Sanjay Sehgal, president of the Retail Chemists Association, said, “Chemists in the city have been selling syringes without prescriptions for the past five years. The order was issued by us seeing the state of addiction in the state. We have been abiding by the law for long. Also, the government should answer what it is doing about the online sales of syringes. Even today, people are ordering huge cartons of Dispovan from online stores and these are promptly reaching them without any questions asked about the doctors or prescriptions. So where are the curbs then?”

“We welcome the government’s decision to ban the unchecked sale of syringes. But our only contention is the undue action against chemists. Sometimes, they are unduly harassed when the smugglers and those perpetrating the drug supply chain go scot-free. An effective mechanism will  have to be put in place to ensure that no unchecked syringe sale takes place even online.”    

Jatinder Chawla, general secretary of the District Chemists Association, said, “Somewhere it feels as if chemists are going to bear the brunt of the drug problem in the state. The move is laudable but would be effective only if properly implemented. Addicts ferret out syringes from the garbage bins and hospitals. They get them online or from shady establishments. What can poor chemists do about syringes in the bin? The entire dynamics of the problem will have to be taken into consideration. We have stopped selling syringes without prescriptions for the past five years. Formal letters and a notification were issued to all chemists from the association. But addiction is still taking place. Unless those selling chitta are nabbed, this will remain just a half-hearted crusade.” 

While chemists shall be putting up posters on shops from tomorrow that no syringes shall be sold without a doctor’s slip, they also declared holding a state-wide bandh.

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