City chemists called off their four-day agitation on Friday evening after politicians, including Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, promised them that their demands would be discussed.
The chemists had been pulling down their shutters at 6pm since Monday, protesting against the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) crackdown on shops that were not employing qualified pharmacists for the entire duration of their working hours. Only pharmacies inside hospitals, and a few day-and-night chemists had stayed open in the evenings.
On Friday, state home minister RR Patil and FDA minister Manohar Naik spoke to members of the Retail and Dispensing Chemists Association (RDCA) over the phone, asking them not to shut their shops so early, especially since the city is on high alert after the twin blasts in Hyderabad.
"We have been assured that our grievances will be looked into. A series of meetings have been lined up with the FDA to work out solutions," said Prasad Danave, general secretary of RDCA, which has 6,000 city chemists as members. "The chemist shops will now stay open as per their normal working hours, usually from 9am to midnight. While chemists called the FDA crackdown unfair considering the shortage of qualified pharmacists, FDA authorities maintained that they were only implementing the Drug and Cosmetics Act that makes it mandatory for every chemist shop to have pharmacist.
Since January, the FDA has issued stop-sale notices to 170 shops in Mumbai, and 739 in the rest of the state for flouting the pharmacist rule. The FDA has also cancelled 50 and suspended 40 licences of chemist stores across the state.
Chemists said they needed more time to implement the rule.