Recommendations to deal with the challenges were also provided in the letter
The challenges faced by the pharma industry in Himachal Pradesh due to the nationwide lockdown has compelled the Himachal Drug Manufacturers Association (HDMA) to send a letter to Jai Ram Thakur, Chief Minister, Himachal Pradesh. The letter highlights that the pharma industry is battling several problems like obstructions in material movement, low stock of essential consumables, briquettes, problems in surface transport service, non-availability of truck drivers and loaders, inter-state movement restrictions etc. As a result, they are finding it difficult to continue their business operations in the state.
Dr Rajesh Gupta, President, HDMA informed, “The Union Government of India is trying its best to ensure that the industries involved in essential supplies continue their business operations to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicines and medical equipment. But due to various factors, pharma companies in Himachal Pradesh are finding it a big challenge to continue operations. Hence, these issues need to be resolved immediately.”
Dr Gupta added, “We are optimistic about the response from the government and most likely there will be some clarity on these issues by April 20.”
Dr Gupta also pointed out that some of the employees who can manage to come to work have refused to do so and only 50 per cent of the units are functioning. Ancillary suppliers, especially, bottle manufacturers/mono cartons, AVC/Alu-Alu packaging/corrugated box manufacturers have also been highly impacted and are running only at 15-20 per cent of their capabilities due to lockdown norms.
Recently, around six people were found COVID-19 positive in this area, and as a result, the local authorities sealed an area of approximately six-kilometres. Hence, 45 pharma units were forced to stop production. So, the letter seeks to revisit the 14-days quarantine procedure in Baddi-Barotiwala Nalagarh (BBN) area.
Now, the letter requests that a minimum of five people from outside HP should be allowed entry into each pharma unit in the state. This request includes a vehicle pass on a daily basis to and fro for at least eight hours, but only after verification by the state drug administration. The letter also recommends that during shift timings, pharma workforce should be allowed to move by foot and two-wheelers to avoid transportation burden on the pharma industry or avoid providing HRTC bus facilities on selected routes.
The letter also suggests a waiver of fixed and demand charges in electricity bills for the MSME industry on an immediate basis, similar to decisions taken by governments in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Punjab. Another recommendation is that local raw material traders should also be allowed to supply to the pharma industry for three to four hours per day to streamline raw material movement/dispatches and ensure 50 per cent production.
The letter also informed that approximately 20 per cent of the state’s revenue comes from the pharma sector and sought immediate relief/action plans from the government.