The Central government’s promise of ushering in a new era of development and employment has instead threatened to jeopardize the future for thousands of medical assistants in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Medical assistants holding diplomas in pharmacy are no longer eligible for employment in government jobs or the grant of license to run private pharmacies under the Central Pharmacy Act that has replaced the J-K Pharmacy Act, 1998, with the imposition of the J-K Reorganization Act 2019 last August.
Until August 2019, medical assistants were eligible for pharmacy licenses after completing a two-year diploma course. However, the Central Pharmacy Act 1948 lays down the eligibility criteria for a four-year Bachelors’s degree in Pharmacy.
Thousands of medical assistants who hold the two-year diploma, from private as well as government-run institutes, now stare at an uncertain future. “Over 20000 diploma students are seeking justice,” said Adnan Shafi, who also holds a two-year diploma from the privately-run Kashmir Institute of Medical Science in 2019.
Mr. Shafi said that the concerns of aspiring and professional medical assistants are being ignored by the regional administration. “We have held many protests so far but the administration is just neglecting our issues,” he said. Under the new act, he added: “We are not able to apply for government jobs as even the private hospitals ask for the [new] registrations.”
In February, this year, the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) recognized J-K pharmacists under the central pharmacy act and made chemists registered under the repealed J-K Pharmacy Act eligible to continue practicing pharmacy till 5 August 2019. However, the students who had been pursuing a medical assistant diploma in Pharmacy until the abrogation of special status 2019 are ineligible, as per the PCI regulations.
Despite the diploma being rendered invalid, Mr. Shafi said that both the government and private institutes were still enrolling students for the two-year course. “They are still taking the medical assistant diploma admissions and fooling the poor students,” said Mr. Shafi.
Though, the Principal of the government-run Ancillary Medical Training college in Baramulla, Dr. Manzoor Syed denied the allegation saying that the institute had “immediately stopped offering admissions for the diploma courses” after August 2019.
The principal of the Government Medical College in Srinagar, Dr. Saima Rashid, said that as such “the career of these 20,000 medical assistants is in the air”. “We have also written to the government about this issue but we have not heard from them yet,” she added.
Director Health Kashmir, Dr. Samir Mattoo, said that “solving this problem needs intervention by [the] government [and] that depends on their financial capability and availability”. The Commissioner Secretary to the administration in matters of Health and Medical Science, Atal Dullo, did not respond to repeated calls from The Kashmir Walla.
Gaurav Laskotra, a diploma holder in Jammu said [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi promised to provide employment to the people of Jammu and Kashmir but instead these loopholes are making us unemployed,” he lamented.