The state transport ministry plans to take the help of the state health department to set up such medical stores across the 568 ST stands in Maharashtra.Lakhs of passengers travel by ST buses every day and this move is bound to especially help out rural passengers, who cannot afford expensive medicines in times of emergency while travelling.
State transport minister Diwakar Raote, who is also the chairman of MSRTC, shared with Mirror, “While taking up several issues in the meeting, I proposed setting up generic medicine stores across state ST stands.Accordingly, a policy decision was taken to do so. The main reason behind the initiative is that mainly middle class and below poverty line passengers use ST buses, and generic medicines are not always easily available to them.The new development will definitely boost access.“
Currently, 16,500 MSRTC buses run on 18,700 routes in the cities and rural areas of Maharashtra. While there are 568 main ST stands, more than 2,000 smaller stands also dot the state.
Asked about practicalities, Raote said, “Since we have taken the policy decision, I am going to discuss the implementation process of setting up generic medicine stores with our state health minister, Dr Deepak Sawant. To set up the shops, we will need pharmacists to get licences -whether these will be given on a contract basis or MSRTC will recruit people to run the stores remains to be seen. We also need to decide and properly plan where to get the medicines from. The whole process needs to be streamlined in the long run. It will take around six months for everything to start.“
MSRTC passengers seem to have welcomed the decision. Mahesh Sarnaik, secretary, State ST Bus Passengers’ Forum, said, “ST buses are often the only resource to travel to rural areas and villages, and many commuters are not financially well-off. If they have any health issues at the stands or during travel, they cannot afford expensive medicines. Making generic medicines available at ST stands will help such people a lot. However, the authorities need to guard against black marketeering in this domain.“
Source : Mirror