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Spurious drugs scandal rocks the Valley

[If Ranbaxy can sell adulterated medicines in America, what can be said about whats going on in India...]
Srinagar: Exposure of the fact of spurious drugs being available rocked the valley. Apart from mainstream politicians; separatists, human rights and civil society groups too voiced their concerns. Protest demonstrations were witnessed and shutdown observed.

A day-long shutdown call against the supply of spurious-drugs given by Hurriyat (G) chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani was supported by Jammu and Kashmir Chemists and Druggists Association. Lawyers too suspended their work.

Demanding an impartial probe, Geelani, April 18 said innocent people are being killed. On April 14, he said dubious drugs worth 50 crore of rupees are being supplied to valley-hospitals, every year. Hurriyat (M) spokesperson, April 11 said “government has decided to kill people through spurious-medicines. The way licenses have been issued to fake drug-companies is cause for great concern.” Sajad Lone, chairman Peoples Conference, April 12 alleged that the government is trying to shield people involved in the scam. State Human Rights Commission, April 10 termed it as grave human rights violation.

Demanding judicial probe, independent legislator Er Abdul Rasheed, addressing media here April 20, threatened to cordon Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s residence on opening day of Durbar, here, if he failed to take action against the accused.

Raising slogans, Pharma Managers Welfare Club held protest demonstrations, here, April 20, demanding CBI probe and resignation of former health minister, Sham Lal Sharma. Protest was also organized by Kashmir Center for Social and Development Studies, April 18. “Unless, there is an independent probe, nothing will happen,” says Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan, president Doctors Association, April 19, adding, fate of government inquiries is known to all. He alleged that the head of M/s Lifeline Pharmaco Surgicals, Jammu, Ashok Kumar, who has reportedly supplied spurious-drugs to hospitals, was Sharma’s polling agent.

The Association, April 15, threatened to go on an indefinite strike if independent probe isn’t ordered and FIR isn’t lodged against former health minister and members of central purchase committee. It also filed Public Interest Litigation, April 12, seeking probe into spurious-drugs.

Dr. Saleem-ur-Rehman, Director Health Kashmir, addressing a gathering at a function here, April 14 said spurious-drugs are supplied everywhere, including America. “In past, spurious-drugs have surfaced, but that doesn’t mean all drugs are spurious.”

Linking proposed drug-policy with spurious-drug expose, he said “chemists have an interest in raising the issue. They are against drug-policy and want people to buy medicines from their shops instead of getting them free through hospital-supply.”

Addressing media at Jammu, April 19, Sharma said as the then health minister he had no role either in purchase or supply of these drugs. Terming the scam as political conspiracy against him, Sharma accused his predecessor, Taj Mohi-ud-Din of hatching conspiracy against him to sabotage an enquiry into Public Health Engineering (PHE) scam. Rejecting it, Medical Education Minister, Taj Mohi-ud-Din, April 16, said health department was full of scams and documentary evidence suggests Sharma’s involvement. Currently, Sharma holds PHE portfolio.

Contrary to this, Mohiuddin’s relative, Mir Najibullah, executive director Communication and Capacity Development Unit (CCDU), addressing media here, April 18, accused Sharma of “manufacturing biased inquiry report” against him only to settle personal scores with Mohiuddin. CCDU, implementing agency for supporting activities like Information, Education and Communication and Human Resources Development of National Rural Drinking Water Programme, falls under PHE’s administrative control. A day earlier, probe ordered by Sharma had confirmed large scale bungling in CCDU. Government, April 20, decided to hand over that case to the Crime branch and Vigilance Organization. “Inquiry committee report didn’t hint at any involvement of former health minister in the supply of spurious-drugs,” said Shabir Ahmad Khan, Minister of State for Health, addressing media at Jammu April 20, adding “the firm M/s Lifeline Pharmaco Surgicals, Jammu had obtained contract on basis of forged documents.”

Crime branch, April 21 registered a case against members of Purchase Committee of Health and Medical Education department and Jammu based pharmaceutical supplier on charges of “adulteration of drugs, committing forgery and cheating.” It also took into custody proprietor of Jammu-based firm responsible for supplying spurious-drugs to hospitals. Police here has registered a case of “attempt to murder” and has formed Special Investigation Team to investigate the matter.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2013 on page no. 10

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