After Nepal Police had arrested a number of e-commerce delivery personnel and entrepreneurs on August 27 for violating the prohibitory order issued by the District Administration Office (DAO), Kathmandu, the DAO has now formed a committee to create protocols so that essential goods can still be delivered by e-commerce companies, the Himalayan Times reported. This committee, which consists of government and police officials, will also take recommendations from e-commerce companies while preparing the protocols.

A number of delivery personnel and entrepreneurs were reportedly arrested since home delivery services were not mentioned as essential services in the DAO order. This order, issued to control the COVID-19 pandemic, was first issued on August 19, modified on August 26, and will remain in effect until September 2. The e-commerce companies, however, had argued that they were delivering essential goods such as medicines, food, groceries, masks, sanitisers, etc., the Himalayan Times had reported earlier. Now, however, e-commerce companies can deliver essential goods but not non-essential items such as clothes, cakes and junk food.

One of the entrepreneurs had told the Himalayan Times that they had talked to officials at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies about their services, and the ministry had told them that they could continue operating. The Ministry had reportedly written to the Ministry of Home Affairs, requesting it to allow home delivery services.

Similar confusion reigned in India in March-April

When the Indian government had imposed the first lockdown to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, the Home Ministry had exempted delivery of all essential goods through e-commerce from the 21-day curfew that went into effect at midnight on March 25. Despite that, delivery personnel of one of the e-commerce companies, Milkbasket, were not allowed to make deliveries, both by the police and by communities, resulting in wastage of milk, fruits and vegetables, and harassments of its employees and vendors.

Confusion worsened because different cities came out with different guidelines for operations of e-commerce companies. Delhi and Hyderabad required e-commerce employees to get movement passes from the police while Mumbai Police, Gurugram Police, Rajasthan government and Noida administration allowed e-commerce and delivery operations on the basis of company IDs and uniforms. Bengaluru City Police went a step ahead and tied up with MyGate to issue passes to e-commerce personnel through an app. These orders also came through after series of conflicting orders being issued and rescinded. A month later, in May, Ahmedabad had ordered a complete lockdown and shut down all home delivery services except milk shops and medical stores for a week.

Multiple e-commerce platforms had stopped deliveries all together across the country and resumed operations in a phased manner with restrictions on quantity, type of product ordered and areas to which they delivered.

The Central government, too, went through its bout of confusion. It initially allowed all e-commerce operations in an April 15 order, but then reversed it, restricting operations to only essential goods. Even when the Home Ministry allowed physical shops to reopen, e-commerce was still restricted to essential goods.

Read our complete coverage of effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on e-commerce here.