After Flipkart, Amazon is now in violation of the Home Ministry’s guidelines over what it is and is not allowed to deliver during the COVID-19 lockdown. MediaNama was able to place orders for a tube light in Bangalore, with delivery on April 27, and for Amazon-branded steel utensils in Delhi, with delivery on April 28. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs’ guidelines, essential items are restricted to food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, and include neither tube lights nor utensils. We have reached out to Amazon for comment.

As we placed the orders, the website did not tell us that delivery times would be affected because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Ministry of Home Affairs considers physical shops and e-commerce platforms as completely different sectors, even if they sell the same products. Late last night, the Ministry allowed physical shops across the country to be reopened, but in a clarification issued earlier this morning, said that e-commerce companies were still restricted to only essential items. Earlier this week, the Home Ministry allowed shops to sell education books and fans and clarified yesterday that this did not include e-commerce companies.

Delivery services are better placed to safely deliver goods during the lockdown: MediaNama’s take

According to experts, social distancing and minimising physical contact with other human beings are among the primary ways of handling this pandemic. In that scenario, going to a physical shop means that customers can potentially create clusters for the virus to spread, but delivery would reduce those chances. The Home Ministry’s guidelines, however, don’t mandate delivery by physical shops. For a lot of shops, it is true that they may not have the resources to deliver at home, but it should at least be encouraged.

E-commerce companies, in this situation, are uniquely placed to deliver essential (and potentially non-essential) products with minimal human contact. They already have the networks and supply chains in place that they can tap into. If anything, the government can explore ways of allowing local physical shops to tap into these vast delivery networks to enable home delivery which would, in turn, minimise chances of people gathering at a place and potentially acting as carriers of COVID-19. The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) and Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) have already invited applications from Indian start-ups to develop solutions that can help local kirana stores take online orders and ensure last mile contactless delivery.