New Delhi: The Modi government is expanding the reach of its Jan Aushadhi scheme, which aims to provide quality medicines at affordable rates, by opening chemist stores around railway hospitals.
The Ministry of Railways has already granted permission to the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers — which runs the healthcare scheme — to set up these shops, ThePrint has learnt.
The government has zeroed in on 127 locations to open these chemist stores, whcih will be in the vicinity of railway hospitals that are approachable for the general public living around the area. These stores will open after the Lok Sabha elections.
Jan Aushadhi stores provide generic medicines that are almost 50 to 90 per cent cheaper than the branded versions.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has been playing up the healthcare scheme as one of its achievements. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during an interaction with beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP), through video conferencing on 7 March, said the scheme has led to savings worth Rs 1,000 crore for common people.
The government has also designated 7 March as Jan Aushadhi Diwas.
Railways approval after back and forth between ministries
The approval from Railways for the stores has come after a lot of back and forth between the two ministries.
In July, Rajen Gohain, Minister of State for Railway had told the Rajya Sabha that “two ministries have, in principle, agreed to set up such Kendras (shops) at railway premises”.
“Deliberations between the two ministries to work out the modalities are going on,” he had said.
In February, however, he denied any such proposal, telling Parliament that his ministry had no plans to open chemist shops at railway stations.
Finally, at a meeting held on 13 March, the railways ministry agreed to open such stores but around railway hospitals rather than at railway stations.
The decision was conveyed by the railways ministry to principal chief medical directors and principal chief engineers of Indian Railways in a letter dated 25 April. A copy of the letter has been accessed by ThePrint.
The ministry decided to “establish chemist shops under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana in the circulating areas of Railway Hospitals”, says the letter, which also called for the proposal “to be accorded top priority”.
“It is, therefore, requested that locations, where shops could be established in the circulating areas of railway hospitals, may be identified in the zone immediately…,” reads the letter issued by R.S. Shukla, Joint Director, Health, Railway Board.