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E-commerce supply chains must be allowed to operate: Home Ministry to all states, UTs

Update (March 27 4:43 pm): The Delhi Police will continue to abide by the SOP laid down by the Home Ministry, the latest order from the Delhi Police, dated today, says. Thus, delivery of all essential goods (food, “health infrastructure” including medicines and medical equipment) will be allowed. “We are in the process of implementing this. More details will be available soon,” Vikram Porwal, the staff officer to commissioner of Delhi Police, told us.

Update (March 27 12:15 pm): Continuing with its original order, Gurugram Police does not require passes for e-commerce operations in the city, the Police’s COVID Cell told MediaNama.

Update (March 27 12:08 pm): Mumbai Police will continue to allow e-commerce and delivery operations on the basis of company IDs and uniforms, Pranaya Ashok, the Deputy Commissioner of Police told MediaNama.

  • Kirana stores and other hyperlocal delivery stores will have to collect their passes from the local police station. “There is no elaborate procedure to be followed. Most of the kirana stores are already known to the police station. They only have to give basic details of their operations to collect the passes,” Ashok said.
  • 10,000 passes were issued to police stations and units across the city in the first batch for kirana stores. “If more are required, we will issue more,” Ashok said.

Update (March 27 10:08 am): In addition to having passes, “delivery persons in uniforms and with I-cards are being allowed” in Hyderabad, Telangana’s IT Secretary Jayesh Ranjan told us.

  • Online delivery services will be allowed only between 6 am and 6 pm, the DGP of Telangana Police tweeted. Ranjan clarified that this applies to all delivery services, including Amazon, Flipkart, etc.
  • “Zomato and Swiggy are permitted to operate in the city [without passes] because they have proper passes and licensed vehicles,” he said. But they have also been given some passes as extra precaution.
  • 35,000 passes have been issued since the Hyderabad Police Commissioner started issuing passes on March 25. Most of these passes have not been issued to big companies, but to smaller operators such as milk vendors, kirana shop operators, pharmacies, people who bring in packaged water, milk supplieres, etc., Ranjan told us. The aim is to get the whole supply chain, from manufacturing to delivery to consumers, up and running.

You’re reading it here first: All facilities in the supply chain of e-commerce companies, local stores, and large brick and mortar stores must be allowed to operate to ensure supply of essential goods (including food, medicine and medical equipment/devices), as per the latest order from the Home Ministry to chief secretaries of all states and union territories, the Ministry’s spokesperson tweeted. This includes manufacturing units, wholesale suppliers, retail outlets, warehousing facilities, transportation services and manufacturing units, according to the standard operating procedure (SOP) issued by the Ministry. The State Governments have also been instructed to open a 24X7 control room to register complaints/grievances. The order has been signed by Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla.

This direction has come after individual police departments, including Delhi Police, Mumbai Police, and Gurugram Police, came out with their own guidelines that allowed e-commerce operations without any passes. Unlike these police departments, police in Hyderabad and Bengaluru had already started issuing passes to e-commerce companies. The Home Ministry had already exempted delivery of all essential goods through e-commerce from the 21-day curfew that went into effect at midnight on March 25.

According to the SOP:

  • Movement of employees on the basis of passes issued by local authority/ies: The local authority/ies have to issue “e-pass or any other certification” so that delivery personnel and other employees can commute. All employees must carry a valid photo ID card.
    • For the unorganised sector involved in supply of essential goods, people must get approval/authorisation from the local authority/ies.
  • Verification of documents by state governments and UTs can be done “randomly” under the Shops and Establishment registration regime through which every state had to enact its own Shops and Establishments Act.
  • Only essential goods can be sold, companies can later be audited about this: Only essential goods, that is food, medicine, and medical equipment, can be sold at the “retail end” of the supply chain. Companies will have to give an undertaking to this effect, and allow subsequent audit of their records to ensure compliance.
  • Warehouses of wholesalers and retailers of essential goods must remain open even if they also store non-essential goods.
  • Protect employees: Only bare minimum staff must must be engaged by the retailers, wholesalers and e-commerce entities.During operations, social distancing must be ensured. All involved facilities must provide employees with “proper protective gear” and carry out “regular health and sanitation check-up of employees engaged”.

SOP from central government probably released to make transportation of goods smoother: The earlier order issued by Delhi Police that allowed operations of e-commerce in the city without any passes had already been rescinded late on March 26 evening, before the Home Ministry’s SOP was released, Vikram Porwal, the staff officer to commissioner of Delhi Police, told MediaNama. This is because it wasn’t clear how deliveries across borders, and transportation of essential goods across city and state borders would happen in the absence of a central directive, he told us. The SOP acknowledges that transportation of essential goods, from manufacturers to wholesalers and/or retailers would involve “intra-city, inter-city in same/state/UT or inter-state movement”.

The SOP also includes delivery from “restaurants supplying home delivery of cooked food items” as a supply of essential goods (food). However, it is not clear if aggregators such as Zomato and Swiggy would be exempted, particularly because the state of Tamil Nadu had prohibited “home delivery of food items through aggregators like Swiggy, Zomato, Uber eats [sic]” in its last order dated March 23, which the Chennai Police had put into effect on March 24. Other states had not.

This order has already been sent to at least one e-commerce company, we can confirm.

This is developing story, and we will keep updating. Read more about e-commerce operations during the 21-day lockdown here.

***Update (March 27 4:43 pm): New Order from Delhi Police.

***Update (March 27 12:15 pm): Response from Gurugram Police. Reporting contributed by Soumyarendra Barik.

***Update (March 27 12:08 pm): Response from Mumbai Police DCP Pranya Ashok

***Update (March 27 10:08 am): Response from Telangana IT Secretary Jayesh Ranjan. Originally published on March 26 at 10:24 pm.

[embeddoc url=”https://www.medianama.com/wp-content/uploads/Standing-Operating-Procedure-on-supply-of-essential-goods.pdf” download=”all”]

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