India Sets Up Monitoring Cell Amid Fear of Exorbitant Price Hikes During 21-Day COVID-19 Lockdown

© REUTERS / ADNAN ABIDIA sign pasted on a security barricade is seen after the India Gate war memorial was closed for visitors amid measures for coronavirus prevention in New Delhi, India, March 19, 2020.
A sign pasted on a security barricade is seen after the India Gate war memorial was closed for visitors amid measures for coronavirus prevention in New Delhi, India, March 19, 2020.  - Sputnik International
New Delhi (Sputnik): With the announcement of a near curfew-like lockdown for 21 days, thousands of delivery agents have been facing abuse and harassment that has led to disruption of delivery of goods. The strict enforcement has jeopardised the assurance given by Prime Minister Modi of no shortage of essential goods to common people.

The Indian government has set up a control room to monitor the real-time status of the transportation and delivery of goods, manufacturing, and delivery of essential commodities to ordinary citizens during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus cases in the country.

“In the event of any manufacturing, transport, distributor, wholesaler, or e-commerce companies facing ground-level difficulties in the transport and distribution of goods and the mobilisation of resources, the matter may be reported to the department of internal trade,” a notification issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry reads.

The issues reported by various stakeholders shall be taken up with the concerned state government, local authorities and police.

The announcement has come against the backdrop of hundreds of complaints filed by various stakeholders, responsible for delivery of essential goods, on the first day of lockdown. Coronavirus cases in country have now reached 649, with 13 deaths.

On the first day of the nationwide lockdown, there was scarcely any traffic on most of the nation's motorways, including the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata highways, which otherwise serve as key corridors for the movement of goods.

Police have been stopping most freight vehicles, including those carrying essential goods, as all states have closed their respective borders and issued their own guidelines.

“This may be because there is still confusion regarding the nature of industrial goods that can be or cannot be transported at the moment,” a senior government official told Sputnik.

Local store owners have been complaining about a shortage of goods in the absence of almost all deliveries from wholesalers over the past week.

“Wholesalers have not been delivering goods for past many days. My shop is now almost empty, with no flour, pulses, water bottles, etc. I agreed to pay a higher price to them, but still they are not delivering,” Yamuna Burnwal, a local grocery shop owner in Delhi told Sputnik.

The strict enforcement of the near-curfew-like situation throughout the country has disrupted the delivery of essentials in large cities like Delhi. Online grocery retailers such as Grofers and the meat delivery platform FreshtoHome had stopped making deliveries after policemen abused and assaulted delivery agents.

“Groceries, milk, vegetables, medicines and all other essential items will be available to all residents throughout, with some restrictions,” the District head of Gurugram— an IT hub near Delhi—said, while warning people to stay at home.

Grofers and some other online retailers have started taking orders once again but advised people “to expect a longer delivery time as we serve older orders first”.

Indian Prime Minister Modi announced a 21-day complete lockdown on 24 March that came into effect within hours of the announcement. 

"There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes... The entire country will be in lockdown, total lockdown," Modi said in a televised address. The government has made it clear in the guidelines that except in emergency situations, not a single person will be able to venture into the streets. 

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