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In a late-night order on Friday (April 24), the ministry of home affairs allowed the opening of shops selling non-essential items from Saturday onwards. The decision is expected to provide relief to the public but has let down ecommerce marketplaces as they were planning to utilise the opportunity to sell non-essential items.
According to the order, shops located in residential areas within or outside the limits of municipalities and municipal areas are allowed to open. Meanwhile, market complexes, administered by municipal corporations, are expected to remain closed until further notice.
Shops in market places, multi-brand and single-brand malls located in municipality areas, coronavirus hotspots and containment areas will also remain closed. At the same time, barbers, electricians, plumbers, among others will be able to provide their services.
All registered shops regd under Shops & Establishment Act of respective States/ UTs, including shops in residential complexes, neighborhood & standalone shops exempted from #lockdown restrictions.
Prohibited: Shops in single & multi brand malls pic.twitter.com/NNz9abgWdA
— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) April 24, 2020
Speaking to Inc42, national general secretary of a traders’ body said that while the central government has passed this order, state authorities will take the final decision on whether they want to open the shops or not.
Confederation Of All India Traders’ Praveen Khandelwal added that there is no update on ecommerce operations and they will have to stick to selling groceries, at least for now.
The shops, which will be opening after the decision, will be subjected to certain conditions. These shops will have to run with only 50% of workers strength and will have to wear masks and follow social distancing norms.
In a public message, Khandelwal has urged retailers to wait for the final decision from the respective state government. CAIT has asked traders to sanitise shops and markets before restoring operations. “Traders should follow healthy practices laid down by the ministry of health and family welfare while maintaining social distancing to curb the spread of Covid-19,” CAIT added.
No Relief For Ecommerce
As of now, ecommerce platforms are ensuring the supply of essential items across the country. These online marketplaces were also looking to provide people with non-essential items from April 20. But a similar late-night order denied this permission to online marketplaces such as Flipkart, Amazon and Paytm Mall.
Meanwhile, they were also looking to launch a sale on the platform to boost the sales of non-essential items. However, the recent order from the home ministry seems to be only beneficial for offline sellers.
Meanwhile, the Retailers Association of India (RAI) is seeking further clarification on the order. RAI said that the current circular is open to interpretation and needs more clarity for easier implementation. The traders’ body explained that terms like market complexes are not easily understood. RAI has urged the government to open malls as well.