Mamata living upto her promise

Like any other politician Mamata Banerjee has been able to live up to many of her promises that were delivered to the people of Bengal in the heat of the historic elections in 2011, but it is also true that many of her better initiatives tend to get lost in the hard boiled political rhetoric of Bengal.
For example her plans to introduce Fair Price medicine shops across government run hospitals in the state is, on paper, something that is going to bring in real change in the lives of people. But the good initiative has already received criticism from certain quarters as an unviable project and the chemists’ unions in the state are threatening to protest against the move. Banerjee has signalled that instead of being bullied, she would go ahead with opening more shops given that the poor people have warmed up to it and there are genuine cases when patients have benefitted from the shops. These shops  store  up to 142 types of generic medicine, including those for cancer, kidney and other advanced diseases and sell medicines for as much as 63 per cent less  than the market price. Also, unlike medicine shops in government hospitals which only cater to those admitted, these shops are open to sell medicines to anyone. No wonder, chemists who thrive on profit are protesting what is without doubt a sincere and great initiative.

It is not rare that poor patients have been forced to terminate treatment thanks to the exorbitant rate of some life-saving drugs. Often in government hospitals the drugs which are supposed to be available for free are siphoned off for profits and neither the patients nor the hospital is known to make much gain from free medicine shops inside government hospitals. And the common man cannot access these shops if they are not admitted to the hospital. But the new fair price shops, by trying to subsidise partly, will remain in business and by catering to the common man in general never run out of buyers. This seems to be a win-win situation for both the customer and the shop owner.

It is unfortunate that chemists’ unions are ganging up against what is undoubtedly a very agreeable plan. Banerjee should know that people are with her in this move and she should go ahead with doing her bit for the poor as far as medicines are concerned. She is sure to earn some much-needed brownie points for her and her government if this move is a success. And she knows best how she needs to get back the confidence that the electorate had shown in her during her historic victory.


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