A large chunk of the 125,000-odd chemist shops in Uttar Pradesh downed shutters Monday to protest against last week's arrest of several Lucknow-based chemists on the charge of selling spurious drugs.
Retailers as well as wholesalers observed a day's token strike against the administration's crackdown that led to a big haul of fake, sub-standard and out-dated drugs from several manufacturing and trading units across the state.
Many people were put to inconvenience and relatives of the sick in hospitals faced a tough time procuring necessary medicines. Even life-saving drugs were not available anywhere in Lucknow. Reports from other cities like Agra, Kanpur, Varanasi and Allahabad indicated partial response to the strike call.
The Uttar Pradesh Chemists and Druggists Federation demanded immediate release of all arrested chemists. Association president Diwakar Singh threatened to further intensify the agitation "if the arrested persons were not released forthwith".
As many as 342 raids were carried out over the past week and 676 samples of suspected spurious drugs were collected. About half a dozen people were arrested in this connection and 14 criminal cases were registered in various parts of the state.
While earlier arrests did not provoke any organised protest, the arrest of a prominent chemist from the Naka police circle Saturday led to a demonstration, culminating in a road block and sit-in that day.
Federation secretary Suresh Gupta told mediapersons: "The manner in which raids have been carried out seems to label all chemists and druggists as sellers of spurious drugs."
He blamed a section of the media for accusing every raided shop of selling fake drugs. "Until the seized sample is tested in a laboratory, you have no business to describe any drug as fake," he asserted.
Queried about the plight of the patients, Gupta said: "We could not help it even though our intention was not to cause any inconvenience to any patient."