Panic buying and lack of transport coupled with restrictions on movement of people has led to a shortage of medicines in Kolkata and large parts of Bengal despite adequate stocks in warehouses and sufficient production.
“On the one hand people are buying more medicines than what they require while on the other, distributors are not able to despatch supplies to retailers on time,” said Sumanta Dutta, owner of Lifeline Drug Store at Ballygunge in south Kolkata, who is working with only one out of four employees.
“Three of my men are not coming for work because of the lockdown,” he said.
“Distributors are taking three to four days to supply medicines simply because of the lack of transport and special identity cards that will allow their men to get through police checkpoints,” said Dutta.
A medicine wholesaler, too, blamed the restrictions for the shortage.
“Drug and pharmaceutical manufacturers have enough medicines in stock. The main problem is restriction on air and land transport,” said Jaideep Sarkar, a wholesaler at Burrabazar, the hub of Kolkata’s drug trade.
The state government had intervened on Wednesday to assure that suppliers of essential services will be allowed to move and that may improve the shortage situation, said another stake holder.
“After Mamata Banerjee announced on Wednesday that we can use passes for people involved in essential services we have started issuing authorisation letters,” said Tarak Nath Tripathi, general secretary of Entally Market Traders’ Welfare Association in central Kolkata.
“Hopefully retailers will be able to get over this crisis triggered by panic buying,” said Amiya Samanta, a medicine shop owner in Burdwan town in East Burdwan district.
“Once the passes are issued, people and vehicles carrying medicines can move freely,” a senior Kolkata Police official said on the condition of anonymity.