The Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) - the industry body representing large domestic pharmaceutical companies - expressed concern over manufacturing and supply chain disruption owing to the ongoing lockdown imposed by the government across the country.
IPA drew the attention of the government towards the mistreatment of pharmaceutical industry workers by police. The group noted that workers in pharmaceutical manufacturing and supply chain were beaten up by police and vehicles transporting goods were stopped at checkpoints.
The pharma body urged the government to immediately resolve the issue by asking chief secretaries to direct the police department and district magistrates to follow government instructions. The authorities concerned should accept company identity cards issued to pharma sector employees. Moreover, employees in warehouses, C&F agents, pharmacists, and chemists should be recognised as part of pharma operations. Restrictions on the movement of goods and services to the pharma industry also should be eased.
The industry representatives also called for better coordination between states and inter-government authorities.
The government imposed a 21-day lockdown of the country starting from midnight of March 24 to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Only essential services are allowed to operate. However, the lack of coordination between states and government authorities is leading to disruption of even essential services like the pharma industry, which shouldn't stop making and distributing medicines.
"There is ambiguity on the ground and it will be important to consider the challenges faced in pharmaceutical production, distribution and supply as essential goods and services. All employees engaged in this sector, like medical professionals, should continue to be involved in their respective
roles for manufacturing and distribution as it is fundamental to saving lives," IPA said in a letter to the government.
IPA brought to the government's notice the problems faced by drug manufacturing facilities as many units are being directed to be shut down by local authorities.
"We have been getting feedback from our companies that Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are relatively better placed in production. However, operations are impacted in Goa, Baddi, Uttar Pradesh, Daman, Silvasa and Indore," IPA said in a letter addressed to various government agencies such as Prime Minister Office, Ministry of Home Affairs and Department of Pharmaceuticals.
The alliance also pointed out that the interstate employee movement from Punjab and Haryana to Baddi in Himachal Pradesh, which is a major manufacturing hub, took a hit. "Employees are scared to come to work due to fear, stoppage of movement and unpleasant incidents that have been reported," it added.
According to IPA, there are shortages of packing materials, protection gear like masks and gloves for workers in the factories, coal to operate boilers and absence of contractors and contractual workers to perform tasks like electric, civil, ducting work, maintenance of equipment, nitrogen supply and scrap movement.
On the distribution front, the pharma industry is unable to move the material from clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents to warehouses of stockists. The stockists are not able to work as they don't come under essential commodities and services.
"Even employees are not able to come to pharmacy and warehouses as they are being stopped by police. Fear has been induced by police and in some cases, employees are beaten up," IPA said.
The industry also said the transportation services are disrupted as vehicles carrying staff to handle critical deliveries are stopped and staff are not allowed to move for handling or deliveries, and in some cases have been beaten up by police. The industry expressed concerns about intra- and interstate transport hampered due to lack of coordination between authorities. Ports are functioning at low capacity and containers are not available.