SRINAGAR: Thousands of diploma holders for the position of medical assistant and pharmacist in Jammu & Kashmir have been left stranded after the Indian Parliament converted the state into Union territory. The consequent change of laws has left them unable to register for a licence.

“Our future is at stake,” said a group of diploma holders in Kashmir, demanding that their diplomas be recognised in the registration process governed by India’s Pharmacy Act of 1948, which now applies instead of the pharmacy council laws of the erstwhile state.

They said their medical assistant and pharmacist diplomas are not registered under the Pharmacy Council of India, as they used to be registered under Jammu & Kashmir’s Pharmacy Council laws.

One such aspirant, from south Kashmir, said that most students with these diplomas belong to poor and needy families, and cannot now afford additional degrees. “We have already spent two–three years and lakhs of rupees pursuing the diploma. It’s not possible for us to afford more expenses.”

Reportedly more than 20,000 medical assistant and pharmacist diploma holders have lost hope, as they are not getting the registration under the Indian Pharmacy Council (IPC 1948) rules.

Suhail Mohidin, a diploma holder, said that “before 5 August 2019, medical assistant diploma holders were considered as junior pharmacists, and were given licences to run the pharmacy shops, and were eligible for certain jobs as well.”

He said that “thousands of students have done this diploma in every nook and corner of Jammu & Kashmir, and thousands are still pursuing in different institutions.”

“Many aspirants belong to poor or middle-class families, many are orphans, who preferred this diploma over a bachelor’s degree as they couldn’t afford the expenditure, that too outside the state, for financial reasons,” said Suhail.

After completing this diploma, the aspirants said, they were able to earn bread and butter for their families, without being dependent on anyone.

They said that most of them are doing government jobs or working as junior pharmacists in the hospitals here, “but now the problems are growing, after the state was converted into UT and medical assistant diploma registration was excluded in the IPC rules.”

“The move brings dark clouds over the future of all the diploma holders here,” the aspirants said. “We have been protesting for more than six months, but so far no one has responded to our sincere demands.”

“We belong to middle-class families, which is why nobody is trying to listen to our grievances. We are clueless now and don’t know what to do.”

They further said that they could not understand why they had been excluded from the registration.

“It appears the government is destroying the future of orphaned, poor medical assistant aspirants,” they said.

The medical assistant and pharmacist diploma holders requested the new Lieutenant-Governor to address the issue soon. They also requested the Union Health Minister to come forward to save the future of 20,000 medical assistant aspirants in Jammu & Kashmir.

They said they believe that “laws are made for the betterment of society, not its devastation.”