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Govt reverses decision: E-commerce companies can deliver only essential goods starting April 20

After initially allowing e-commerce companies to continue operations, the government yesterday backtracked and said they can only operate services for essential goods. The Home Ministry’s initial order, dated April 15, had allowed all facilities involved in manufacture, wholesale, and retail of essential goods to operate, including e-commerce companies. It had separately allowed operations by e-commerce companies, while stating that vehicles used by them will be allowed to ply with necessary permissions.

The Home Ministry itself had clarified to news publications that mobile phones, TVs, refrigerators. laptops, and stationary items will be allowed for sale on platforms like Amazon, Snapdeal, and Flipkart starting April 20. Mobile phone companies had already begun preparing to restore supply and delivery via e-commerce companies.

The U-turn elicited a statement from Amazon, which said the directive will disappoint consumers, small businesses, sellers, and manufacturers who had geared up to resume services for the previous 48 hours. “On behalf of consumers and sellers, we hope that this situation is rectified soon so that the urgent need of consumers is met and that there is revival of economic activity,” Amazon said.

Traders associations had protested MHA’s initial order: Traders body, Confederation Of All India Traders (CAIT) had written to Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, on April 16, stating that it was unfair for e-commerce companies to continue operations for all commodities, while brick-and-mortar sellers are allowed to only deal in essential commodities. The move will create an “imbalance in the level-playing field and give rise to unnecessary conflict”, CAIT had said. All India Mobile Retailers Association registered its opposition in a letter to Home Minister and PM Modi’s right-hand Amit Shah. AIMRA criticised the movie, asking the government for a way for offline retailers to resume operations, while being cautious.

After the government reversed its own directive, Goyal said the move will create a “level-playing filed for small retailers”. Traders’ association CAIT’s national convenor Praveen Khandelwal thanked Prime Minister Modi for bringing “much relief to traders”.

Telangana has banned Swiggy, Zomato operations: While states are not allowed to dilute any of the Centre’s directives, they are free to make the directives tighter or more restrictive. To this end, Telangana has indefinitely banned operations of food delivery platforms such as Zomato and Swiggy, while also extending the lockdown to May 7.

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