A Ludhiana chemist store that recently became famous because of its ‘Gupta & Daughters’ signboard, is once again in the news since its manager Baljinder Singh Jindu went live on Facebook to “expose the drug business mafia” and flashed the difference between the ‘wholesale rate’ and ‘retail price’ of commonly used medicines to “create awareness among the masses about how poor and common people are being looted”.
The store, called ‘Guru Nanak Modi Khaana’ and located near Pavilion Mall in Civil Lines, is run by the NGO Sikh Welfare Council, in partnership with businessman Manoj Kumar Gupta, who has given his firm’s ‘Gupta & Daughters’ drug license to the NGO and shop to sell medicines to the needy at wholesale prices.
On June 25, Jindu went live on Facebook from the shop and displayed some tablets, syrups, masks, ointments, eye drops etc of branded companies, while flashing their ‘wholesale’ and ‘retail’ prices.
“When a poor man sets up a cart on the road to earn money through hard work, the politicians and administration go after him. Lathis are rained on him and his cart is removed but can’t these politicians see this open loot going on? Why does no one raid these people who are selling medicines and earning more than ten times the actual price? Today we are here to expose them. Our aim is not just to sell medicines at wholesale rates to the needy but also to make the masses aware that they are being looted. Today I will tell you the truth behind this drug business and open loot going on…,” said Jindu in the video.
Showing some branded pharmaceutical products, Jindu went on, “Now look at the profits they are earning…This antiseptic powder, its printed rate is Rs 56 and its actual cost is just Rs 8. This eye drop, MRP is Rs 44 and do you know how much it costs? Rs 8 only. Gariban nu daanga marde, ehna nu hai koi fadan wala? (They kick the poor but is there anyone to catch them?)”
He further said, “This tablet is for stomach gas. Rs 108 is the MRP printed on it and it costs Rs 9…This cough syrup costs Rs 21 and it is being sold for Rs 91…”
Jindu then showed a ‘filter mask’ and said, “The MRP is Rs 250 and it has cost us just Rs 40. This spray costs Rs 73 and is being sold for Rs 176. This ointment costs Rs 32 only and is being sold for Rs 103.”
He then also showed some commonly used multivitamins and a costly vaccine, “exposing the profits being earned from them”. He showed a vaccine with Rs 2,544 as MRP but claimed its wholesale rate was Rs 419 only.
“Book me in a hundred FIRs, but I won’t keep quiet. It doesn’t matter if you are selling branded, ethical or generic medicines. The point is you are looting people,” he said. He further questioned politicians in the video and said, “Ludhiana MP gets very angry if someone demands Khalistan. He is quick to point at singers for what they say on Khalistan but can’t he see this open loot?”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Baljinder Singh Jindu said that now all efforts are being made to get their charity shop closed but he will keep raising questions till the end. “Yes I am not a professional in this field but we only informed people at what rate we got medicines at wholesale price and then at what retail price they are sold these in the market. I have recordings of threats that they will get Guru Nanak Modi Khaana closed but I am not scared.”
‘He is misguiding public’: Chemist Assn
G S Chawla, president, Ludhiana District Chemists Association (LDCA), said that Jindu was “misguiding public, without knowing insights of drug trade, and just to collect funds for his NGO”.
“All medicines he was flashing in the video were generic ones, not branded or ethical. He doesn’t even know the difference between branded and generic medicines. He is not a professional chemist who would know the insights of this business. Just to collect funds for his NGO and highlight his shop, he shoots all these videos. Someone should ask him that from where he purchased all these medicines? He purchased them from our wholesale shops in Pindi Street of Ludhiana. There are some 20 wholesale shops in Pindi Street which sell generic medicines at wholesale rates. After purchasing them from us only, he is exposing us. This is simple ignorance,” said Chawla.
Chawla further said that Maximum Retail Prices (MRPs) of medicines are decided by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) and controlled under the central government’s Drugs (Prices Control) Order. “It is NPPA and DCPO which determine retail prices of medicines, not us. They are under central government. We aren’t sitting here printing rates of medicines on the packing. There are Jan Aushadhi Shops opened by the government to sell generic medicines to the needy but if a customer wants to spend on branded medicines which are prescribed by doctors, why should we not sell them? Painting all chemists as looters and money minting machines is unfair,” he said.
Jindu counters, “Most of the medicines which I showed in video were branded not generic. Now when they have been exposed, all chemists are trying to hound me and start this generic versus branded debate.”
Businessman Manoj Kumar Gupta, who has given his firm’s ‘Gupta & Daughters’ drug license to the NGO and shop, said he is being “pressed by some chemists to surrender his drug license” since the video went viral, but he stands with the NGO and won’t ask them to vacate the shop.
Can take action only if someone sells medicine for price more than MRP: Authority
Kulwinder Singh, Zonal Licensing Authority (Drugs), Ludhiana Zone, said that the charity medicine shop is running with a valid license. “The license was issued to ‘Gupta & Daughters’ in 2017 for five years. The owner Gupta has told us that the shop is running with his permission and in partnership with them. We have no business on who posts what on social media. We can take action only if someone sells a medicine at the price more than printed MRP. If someone is selling them on price less than MRP, it is their choice. There are many other shops which are even giving medicines for free to the poor.”
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