E-commerce platform Milkbasket could not deliver a single order in Hyderabad and more than half of their orders in Gurugram and Noida, even before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Milkbasket’s CEO Anant Goel said that the company’s “staff, vendors and vehicles [were] being pushed back from the roads by local police”, and that it was being “asked to shut down its distribution centres”. Telangana CM K. Chandrashekhar Rao has reportedly warned that lockdown violators could be shot at sight. We have reached out to Milkbasket for comment.
On March 23, more than 50 communities denied entry to Milkbasket without any prior notice, which resulted in them dumping 15,000 litres of milk and throwing over 10,000 kilograms of fruits and vegetables, the company informed customers via the app. This suggests that apart from the local police, some resident welfare associations also took it upon themselves to restrict the movement of people on the streets. When the entire nation was observing the Janata Curfew on March 22, its employees and vendors were harassed and held by authorities for “being on the road”.
Forced to dump 15,000 liters of milk, 10 tonnes of fruits and vegetables in one day. @gurgaonpolice do you know anything about this harassmemt of @HelloMilkbasket delivery staff? pic.twitter.com/yr9GPOYKTX
— PKR | প্রশান্ত | پرشانتو (@prasanto) March 24, 2020
The company said that despite being harassed and held by local authorities, it managed to deliver to about 30,000 families on March 24. However, since it would be unable to deliver milk for two days (including today), some of its customers have asked them to close their accounts, while some have complained to authorities that it was violating the Essential Services Maintenance Act.
Home Ministry has allowed e-commerce operations: After Modi announced a 3-week long nationwide lockdown, the Home Ministry exempted delivery of all essential goods through e-commerce, which includes delivery of food, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment, from the lockdown.
However, on day one of the nationwide lockdown, we observed that multiple e-commerce companies, including Amazon, Flipkart, Grofers and BigBasket, are unable to service customers. Milkbasket’s Goel had earlier suggested that access permits/IDs should be issued to people engaged in essential services such as grocery delivery, medicines, food delivery and others.
Read more about e-commerce operations during the 21-day lockdown here.