Most pharmacies in the city remained closed on Saturday afternoon, as several chemist shop owners gathered at Bharat Nagar Chowk here to protest the police and health department's clampdown on chemist shops being run in violation of rules.
The chemists' sit-in was lifted only in the evening, after police commissioner Ishwar Singh met the protesters. The protest was expected as the health department and police had been carrying out joint raids at their establishments for some time now.
Saturday's protest was the reaction to the arrest of two chemist shop owners, who were remanded in judicial custody on Saturday morning, after they were arrested for not being qualified to manage a pharmacy on Friday.
As news of the police action spread among local chemists on Saturday, a joint strike was called and chemist shop owners downed shutters to gather at Bharat Nagar Chowk. Even Pindi Street, the wholesale medicine market of the city, wore a deserted look.
Dugri police had on Friday arrested Sarminder Singh, owner of Saru Medical Hall; Jagdeep Singh, owner of Gill Medicos, and Atul and Priti Batra, residents Madhuban Enclave. The police had claimed that Sarminder and Jagdeep had bought the licences to manage their chemist shops from Atul and Priti.
Inspector Satwinder Singh, the station house officer of Dugri police station, said Sarminder had bought the licence from Atul for Rs. 8,100 for three months, while Jagdeep Singh paid Rs. 1,800 a month to Priti for the licence.
Tikka Dalip Singh, the president of the Ludhiana District Retail Chemists' Association, claimed that the police were not authorised to check chemist shops. “Only the drug inspector can visit and take the call.”
However, when contacted, Dugri police SHO justified the action. “The accused were practicing as chemists without the required qualification. The main accused, Sarminder Singh and Jagdeep Singh, were selling medicines to people illegally,” he said.
“Using others documents and impersonating as chemists with the required qualification is a crime. The Indian Penal Code empowers the police to act against such shopkeepers,” he said.
During the meeting with the chemists, the police commissioner assured of a re-inquiry into the case.
A senior cop on the condition of anonymity said that the reaction of the chemists was maneuvered, as some of them were feeling jitter with the action taken by the police and health department in the past few days.