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North Zone Coord Committee Of MRs Seeks Govt Help To Stem Dangerous Drift In Ties

There was a time when medical representatives (MRs) of major pharmaceutical companies were in perfect sync with the medical fraternity, strutting in and out of doctors’ clinics almost at will. But things are no longer hunky-dory. The prying eyes and ears of pharma majors through I-pad and mobile GPS reporting apps has snapped that string of confidence between the white coats and the men pushing for their company drugs with free sampling.

As the multi-national and indigenous pharma companies grow in size, and pressure increases to maximise profits, the conflict with their so called “ambassadors” in the market is taking on dangerous proportions.

North Zone Coord Committee Of MRs Seeks Govt Help To Stem Dangerous Drift In Ties, Lifeinchd

Photo By : Life In Chandigarh

Besides alleged illegal surveillance of MRs by hired security agencies and violation of privacy, there are also issues of their exploitation, which include low pay and negligible annual increments, working hours beyond the stipulated eight hours without overtime compensation, overload of work, unrealistic targets, attempts at weakening their unions and punitive actions like transfers to far off places, summary dismissals and slapping of allegedly false police cases.

Various MR unions of North Zone, comprising Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, under the umbrella of their North Zone Coordination Committee (NZCC) recently held a stormy convention in Chandigarh to take stock of the situation.

Talking to LifeInChandigarh.com on the sidelines of a media briefing after the convention, NZCC leaders named a few pharma majors operating in India, who they alleged were indulging in unfair means to weaken the unions and fulfil their “nefarious agendas”. They claimed that these companies had hired private security agencies at huge cost to track the activities of their MRs who indulged in union activities.

These agencies had also been assigned to instigate the MRs and get “false police cases” of manhandling registered against them, the leaders alleged, and went on to give examples of a few such cases registered in police stations in Yamunanagar, Ambala and Bathinda between July and August this year.

They claimed that when these security agencies went into action, the MR associations had conveyed their apprehensions to respective district police chiefs in the region. But while the police in these states are promptly registering cases against their members on the complaint of companies, the pleas of MR associations are being ignored, they maintained.

Among the leaders who addressed the media were NZCC joint coordinators Ajay Sharma and Arvinder Sharma, legal advisor Vishal Sharma and leaders of MRs’ associations of Haryana and Delhi Deepak Singh and KK Mittal, respectively.

They claimed that there have also been isolated cases of tragedies in traumatised families of MRs, including suicide by an MR and aborted pregnancy of another MR’s wife.

Naming a particular pharma company, the NZCC leaders claimed that it had pressurised its MRs to resign en masse from their respective associations. The resignations were rejected by the associations since these had been submitted under duress, they said, and added that a letter of protest from the coordination committee to the owner of the company went unanswered.

The leaders informed that cases of alleged harassment and victimisation of MRs by their company management were piling up in labour courts, and because of such cases dragging on for months, the families of complainants were suffering untold misery as in several cases the companies withheld salaries to such litigants. Wherever possible, the MR associations were helping out such families financially and morally, they added.

An active member of the MR association in Jammu, while relating his tale of alleged exploitation by his pharma company, claimed that even after 18 years of service he was getting a measly monthly salary of Rs 18,000. His last annual increment was just Rs 400 despite the galloping price rise, he rued. “Kya khayenge aur kya bachalange. Hamare bachchon ka kya future hoga,” he asked and exclaimed “Abb bhagwan ka hi aasra hai!”    

NZCC is demanding that the respective state governments strictly enforce the labour laws applicable to the industry and safeguard its members against exploitation by their employers. They are also demanding that the alleged false cases registered against its members in different police stations in the region be withdrawn immediately.

Restoration of a congenial working environment, and bridging of the trust deficit between the employee and the employer, is the ultimate solution to the dangerous drift in relations, the NZCC leaders asserted.       

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