E-commerce companies will be allowed to deliver essential goods such as food and medicines during the 21-day lockdown announced by the government yesterday as India battles the escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
According to the guidelines issued by the central government, shops (including ration shops under Public Distribution System) dealing in grocery, food, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, meat and fish and animal fodder will be exempted from the lockdown.
The guidelines said, “However district authorities may encourage and facilitate home delivery to minimize the movement of individuals outside their homes.”
Apart from the exemption given to e-commerce, this also clarifies the stand of the government on the operation of on-demand delivery services.
E-commerce providers in the grocery, on-demand food, milk and medicine delivery have been forced to suspend operations in districts where a lockdown was announced on Sunday. As the lockdown is open to interpretation, some of the players approached the respective state governments for clarity on operations and to ensure that passes be issued to their delivery personnel for the same.
Founders of Milkbasket and Grofers, both grocery delivery companies took to social media on Monday to highlight the challenges faced. “Our @grofers warehouse in Faridabad was closed by local law enforcement today.While we understand they are doing their duty, essential items will be denied to 20,000+ households in Faridabad and Delhi every day,” said Albinder Dhindsa, CEO of Grofers on Twitter.
To this, Navdeep Singh Virk, additional director general of Haryana Police said that the issue will be sorted out by local administration and police soon.
“Teething troubles of the lockdown. Will be sorted out by local administration and police by tomorrow. ECommerce services will be assisted to operate,” he said on Twitter.
Apart from the opportunity for e-commerce entities to expand its user base, private establishments in IT and IT enabled services have been allowed to operate.
Ahead of the announcement, industry lobby Nasscom had advised member companies to prepare for a complete lockdown and enable employees to work from home.
Other sectors which continue to operate include telecommunications, internet services and broadcast and cable services.
“Please assume that only a handful of staff would be allowed to come to office to support the mission critical functions, operate data centers etc...Please do note that the essential services notifications cannot be interpreted to be used for projects that had to be completed in the near term and contracts carrying penalties etc. This is only for truly mission critical work, and any misuse will put us at the risk of losing the trust with the Government and might seriously impact the entire industry,” said the advisory from Nasscom.
The guidelines issued for the lockdown also state that all transportation including rail, road and air will remain closed other than for transport of essential goods and emergency services. Hospitality services and industrial establishments will also remain closed other than special cases.