The movement and supply of essential services in India has been hit hard as the 21-day nationwide lockdown begins on Wednesday. Online grocery firms such as Grofers, Big Basket and Amazon have suspended their services, stating that they are facing restrictions on the movement of goods.
On Tuesday, trucks carrying essential goods and commodities such as vegetables, fruit, medicine and milk were stopped at the borders of different states due to confusion over directives issued by different state governments.
Railway authorities have also written to the Cabinet secretary informing about their employees, who work on 5,000 freight trains, are being stopped from arriving at their jobs.
However, the Modi government shot out a letter to states with the direction that the provision of essential services will not be stopped.
The government order asks state authorities “to not obstruct and call for closure of food processing units, since they manufacture food stuff and to maintain uninterrupted supply for citizens”.
Amid confusion about movement and supply of essential goods, govt to state authorities: For consumer items to be ready available in market, companies should be allowed to keep their manufacturing facilities open. Any executive order or Sec 144 exempts these units of restrictions. pic.twitter.com/xBc4JNBCnn— Aakriti Sharma (@_aakritisharma) March 25, 2020
However, Grofers CEO Albinder Dhindsa shared on Twitter that their warehouse in Faridabad was closed. According to a local media report, its warehouses in Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, and Haryana were also shut down.
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. We need help in sorting this out. @Mcf_Faridabad @ArvindKejriwal— Albinder Dhindsa (@albinder) March 24, 2020
Meanwhile, another online grocery firm, Big Basket, in its message to customers, said “We are not operational due to restrictions imposed by local authorities on the movement of goods in spite of clear guidelines provided by central authorities to enable essential services. We are working with the authorities to be back soon.”
Amazon India has said that it is prioritising the delivery of products that are most needed during the pandemic.
“To serve our customers’ most urgent needs while also ensuring the safety of our employees, we are temporarily prioritising our available fulfilment and logistics capacity to serve products that are currently critical for our customers such as Household Staples, Packaged Food, Health Care, Hygiene, Personal safety and other high priority products. This also means that we have to temporarily stop taking orders and disable shipments for lower-priority products,” it said in a blogpost.
The government order on lockdown states: “All retail/grocery, organised trade including cash and carry and wholesale, chemists/pharmacies that stock and sell food products, medicine, water, etc., should be allowed to remain open to avoid inconvenience to consumers, and also to prevent panic buying.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Tuesday evening announcement of a 21-day complete lockdown had sent people into a tizzy, resulting in long queues and herds of people thronging markets and grocery stores.
Now with reports of halt on movement of essential goods, the panic is spreading amongst people.