COVID-19 Lock-down: No e-Commerce delivery of non-essential items; clarifies govt

KOLKATA:  Today, the Home Ministry declared that e-commerce vendors like Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal are not permitted to sell non-essential goods till 3rd of May. This announcement comes as an amendment to the directive, permitting the sale of goods like clothes, mobile phones, refrigerators, television sets and laptops via e-commerce platforms.

India is currently going through a 40-day nationwide lock-down, till the 3rd of May, that has essentially stopped all economic activities, deemed non-essential. On Saturday, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh held a meeting to discuss reactivating select economic activities and services in zones, unaffected by COVID-19, after April 20th to boost the faltering economy.

After the meeting, the government had released a list of activities and services that will be functional, from April 20th, in parts of the country, deemed non-containment zones; these activities and services will not be allowed in Coronavirus hotspots, the government cautioned.

The list had included the sale of home appliances like televisions and refrigerators through e-commerce platforms. This decision drew the ire of Confederation of Indian Traders (CAIT).

“More than 40 lakh traders are supplying essential goods since lock-down came into effect. Side-lining and ignoring them, e-commerce companies had been allowed to deliver non-essential goods from April 20,” Praveen Khandelwal, CAIT Secretary-General, told news agency ANI.

Furthermore, he asked, “When the lock-down was announced these e-commerce companies suspended operations. We want to know today what is the necessity for which they have been given permission. We have no objection if they are given permission to provide essential services, but why non-essential goods.”

Now, A brief order by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has stated, “‘E-commerce companies (and) vehicles used by e-commerce operators will be allowed to ply with necessary permissions’ – is excluded from the guidelines”.

Alongside this order, a revised list was released. This new list included health services (inclusive of AYUSH), agriculture and horticultural activities, fishing (marine and inland), plantation activities (tea, coffee and rubber with maximum of 50 per cent of workers) and animal husbandry, for recommencement of operations.

The issue of re-opening some sectors and allowing some activities, especially in non-COVID-19 hotspot districts, had come to a head after a video teleconference between 13 chief ministers and central government. Several members had pointed out the severe blow that the extension of lock-down, announced by PM Modi on April 14th, is dealing on the Indian economy.

Even though the centre has claimed that 8.2 lakh Indians could have been infected if not for our governments’ timely enforcement of lock-down, it has also hit the economy hard. Recently, leading global financial institutions like, Barclays have agreed, with GDP projections down to 0%, at worst. World Bank forecasted growth at 6% for FY20 while agencies like Goldman Sachs and IMF is pegging it at 1.5% to 2%.

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