Even if chemists heed to government pressure and start employing more pharmacists, it seems unlikely that pharmacy graduates will take up too many jobs at medical stores.
"Since a pharmacy degree is equivalent to an MBBS, graduates are reluctant to work in chemists' shops. However, if their salary is increased the situation might change," said Abhay Kumar, president, Indian Pharmacist Association (IPA), adding that 70% of his batchmates went abroad to pursue jobs in multinational pharmaceutical companies.
This year, the state Food and Drug Administration suspended and cancelled licences of 90 chemist shops that did not have a mandatory pharmacist, according to government rules.
Following the drive, the demand for pharmacists has escalated to an extent, with shop owners ready to pay up to Rs 30,000 a month to a pharmacy diploma holder, a significant increase from the Rs12,000- Rs15,000 a month they offered before.
"Higher salaries are being negotiated and there's even been some cross-bargaining between two or three shop owners," said Damji Palan, president of the Retail Drug Chemist Association.
The problem most graduate or undergraduate pharmacy students have with working at a chemist are the dismal salaries. "We have better opportunities in multinational companies. There is no potential for growth while working in a chemist shop, and the huge cost of setting one's own pharmacy makes it unfeasible," said Kunal Parekh, a final year pharmacy student. M Saraf, principal, Bombay College of Pharmacy, Santacruz, said, "While graduate students seek jobs in the pharmaceutical industry, students with a diploma in pharmacy are more likely to work at a shop."
After the crackdown, one can see several advertisements outside the office of the Maharashtra Pharmacy Council at Mulund from companies looking to hire pharmacists.