After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown across India, the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) has now asked state governments to allow the delivery of essential products from ecommerce channels amid coronavirus outbreak in India.
In a letter written to chief secretaries of all the state governments, Guruprasad Mohapatra, DPIIT secretary, said that in the wake of precautions being taken by various states for prevention of Covid-19 through lockdowns, it is necessary to issue clear instructions to state authorities to not obstruct operations of ecommerce, food manufacturing units, and grocery stores.
Earlier, ecommerce companies had reported that local law enforcement agencies, citing lockdown, are forcing them to close their warehouses. TOI had reported that the operations of online grocery delivery platform BigBasket, on Tuesday (March 24), were shut by local authorities in Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Patna, Pune, and Kochi. BigBasket’s rival Grofers’ Faridabad warehouse was also shut down by the local authorities.
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Moreover, ecommerce companies such as Flipkart and Amazon India have either temporarily shut down their operations or are delivering only essential products. For instance, Flipkart has decided to temporarily suspend all operations and services for the next 21 days. On the other hand, Amazon India has now shifted its focus to deliver only essential products. Amazon said that it temporarily no longer accepting orders for low-priority products in India.
Will State Authorities Allow Deliveries?
DPIIT said that state authorities need to ensure the inter-state movement of goods for the food processing industry to ensure uninterrupted movement and supply of goods and services, especially of food delivery partners and truck movements to maintain an uninterrupted supply of essential goods. It has asked the state government to allow the easy passage of logistic vehicles carrying raw materials used as ingredients by food processing units.
Additionally, the DPIIT has also asked them to allow distribution and sales channels of the food and beverage market, including food delivery services, and also employees associated. “All organised retail and wholesale trade, chemists that stock and sell food products, medicines, water, etc., should be allowed to remain open to avoid inconvenience to consumers as also to prevent panic buying” DPIIT added.
Besides DPIIT, the consumer affairs department had also asked respective state departments to conduct discussions with ecommerce players to ensure the supply of essential goods to the masses. These essential products include household staples, health and hygiene products, sanitizers, baby formula, and medical supplies.