Despite vacancies being filled to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posts just five years back, the department continues to face a staff shortage.
Out of 160 posts of drug inspectors across Maharashtra, only 90 have been filled so far and of the 250 food safety officer posts, only 180 have been filled.
In Pune, the post of joint commissioner-drugs has been lying vacant for the last nine months. Out of 15 posts of drug inspectors, only nine have been filled so far. While there is a requirement of 34 food safety officers, Pune has 16 food safety officers and they are assisted by 10 others from the Pune Municipal Corporation. Five years ago, a total of 61 posts of food and drug inspectors were filled with 13 appointed in Pune division and four in Pune district.
While the staff crunch persists, several have to make do without official vehicles. At Pune, there is just one vehicle that is shared by both food safety officers and drug inspectors while in Sangli, there is no official vehicle for the FDA officer who is assisting the police investigations in the sex determination and abortion racket.
Highly-placed FDA officials pointed out that these were Class II officers. However, the drug inspectors and food safety officers have no assistance from clerical staff as there are very few who have been appointed. Drug inspectors may inspect medical shops, check records and carry out inspections but there is very little assistance in terms of filing data entry to registering cases, issuing show cause notices and then follow up each case in the court, FDA officials said.
Across the state, there are more than 50,000 pharmacies, 15,000 wholesalers and another 8,000 manufacturing units. FDA officials admitted that some works get delayed. For instance, online applications from persons wanting to set up a medical store and such cases have to be kept on hold as they have to visit the site and send the inspection report to the assistant commissioner.
FDA officials said officers had previously been recruited to various posts in 1997. Owing to staff shortage, the FDA could only play a limited role and partly fulfil several requirements to enforce several Acts such as nabbing offenders for smoking in public places.
The FDA had to fill up the posts as some public interest litigations were filed, sources said. When contacted Dr Harshadeep Kamble, Commissioner, FDA told The Indian Express that there was a staff shortage. “The MPSC has conducted exams and held interviews and we expect vacancies to be filled soon,” Kamble said.