Bengal shows India how Fair Price Shops are possible

Bengal shows India how Fair Price Shops are possible

September 8, 2013

Fair price food cart

Talking point in today’s India is skyrocketing prices of food items. Onion prices have traditionally been a sensitive matter across India; in the past governments have been voted out due to inflated onion prices. This year price of onions has more than doubled as compared to last year and shows no sign of relenting. Common man is having a tough time budgeting for food expenditure. Housewives say they now have to resort to daily budgeting and cope with the tears the onion prices are inducing.

The free fall of the Rupee in the past few weeks have hurt our economy considerably. It has not only pushed the price of petrol higher but of commodities in general. People are hoping measures by the RBI will stabilize the Rupee and arrest its slide. The central government is looking at the situation nervously as they are to face election in a few months.

The situation is no different for the people of West Bengal.

The only difference is in how the West Bengal state government has reacted to the issue. There have been a number of interventions by the state government to reduce the burden on the people of the state.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee introduced the concept of “fair price” food cart all across the capital. There are about 21 mobile food carts or vans moving across the city of Kolkata. These mobile vans are selling poultry, fish, vegetables and fruits at reasonable prices, much lower than the market price. This initiative sought to out the smile back on the faces of perturbed citizens despite drawing flak from some quarters.

Many term this initiative by Mamata Banerjee as a populist move but the consumers are happy. “Basically, it is a mechanism to keep the prices of these commodities under control and set up a pricing benchmark to be followed by the market,” said Pradip Majumdar, advisor to the chief minister on agriculture and allied sectors. “The stalls are gentle reminder to the traders – don’t inflate the prices,” added Majumdar.

Fisheries Minister Chandra Nath Sinha said his department would sit with civic bodies across the state to draw up plans to extend the initiative to other districts as well.

Keeping the holy month of Ramadan in view these “fair Price” mobile vans sold fruits as well. Usually during this time of the year, the prices of fruits soar because of the high demand. These carts have kept fruits within the reach of ordinary citizens.

This initiative has got big thumbs up from the people of Kolkata and has shown how governments can take a proactive stance to ease the burden of the common man.

Fair price medicine shops

All is not fair in the medicine world and neither is it easy on the pocket for the common man. Patients have precious little to do other than follow the medicines prescribed by doctors. It has been a trend for a while for doctors to recommend medication without taking the cost into consideration. A close look at the numbers reveal that the often talked about unholy nexus between Pharmaceutical companies and medical practitioners may not be all fiction.

A common tablet prescribed to diabetics is available in strips of 14 tablets. The cost is a staggering Rs. 170 per strip. If broken down further it works out to be Rs. 12.14 per tablet. The same medicine can be made available to patients for Rs. 2.10 per tablet - if only the generic name was known and it was prescribed accordingly.

Another example is the commonly used medicine for high blood pressure, which costs Rs 94.90 for 15 tablets. The price works out to about Rs. 6.30 per tablet. The same medicine can be made available to patients for Rs. 1.46 per tablet - if only the generic name was known and it was prescribed accordingly.

Antacids - normally prescribed to be taken in the morning on an empty stomach cost Rs. 80.25 for 10 tablets or capsules. The same medicine can be bought for Rs. 4.80 per tablet - if only we knew the generic name was known and it was prescribed accordingly. The list of examples can go on.

MedGuideIndia.com is a website, among several others, that can help a person in finding cheaper options for prescribed medicines, if available; the website throws up a whole range of medicines and the price list. The findings could be revealing!

Fair Price Medicine Shops are a definitive way forward for the common man, but before that, the common man needs to be freed from the clutches of a corrupt medical system that has a debilitating effect on the psyche, even as it drains every last penny in their pockets.

People are mortally scared to take the bold step of asking unwilling doctors for the generic names of medicines prescribed. The next step of switching to generic medicines is even tougher, with little assurance from doctors or pharmacies to facilitate users make this change. It would need sustained scientific effort from the authorities for people to cross this psychological barrier and change the medical system. Doctors need to understand the predicament of the patients, and willingly prescribe generic medicines.

Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee introduced the concept of Fair Price Medicine Shops in Kolkata last year. People welcomed the initiative, but some pharmaceutical companies and dealers seemed unhappy with the move. The government wishes to open 35 fair price medicine shops across the state, of which 24 are already operational. This initiative is sure to bring much-needed relief to people who are burdened with rising costs in almost all fields.

Fair Price Medicine Shops set up in the various government hospitals by West Bengal government have attracted the attention of the Centre. Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have appreciated the move taken by the Mamata Banerjee government for patients to get medicines with up to 67 per cent discount on MRP. In a letter to all the state governments, Union Ministry of Health has asked other state governments to follow the West Bengal model for the benefit of poor patients.

Here is a list of fair price outlets as published by the State Government Health & Family Welfare Department.

The West Bengal government is also planning to launch Fair Price Diagnostic Centers by early next year at the government hospitals in the state. Patients can avail important diagnostic procedures like Digital X-ray at minimal prices at these centers. Dialysis would cost between Rs 700 and Rs 500, whereas CT scan would cost Rs 525; MRI for the brain can be performed for Rs 2250.

This would force a complete overhauling of the health sector, by ushering in price restructuring even by private diagnostic centers. More people would be able to afford treatment and sustain it. It would give the much needed fillip to the health sector and would benefit a large number of people in the state.

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Comments (1)
 
jyotirmoy bhowmik Reply
April 19, 2014
its a very goood effort from our govt. about fair price shop. . my opinion to govt that they should immediately set up a team.the team judge the quality of medicine. it help us to buy without hesitation. we want to get the medicine without discount ,why not lesss MRP. we need more shop in our town BAlurghat.we the people of lower class egarly waiting 4 ur quick response.
 
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