Supermarket chain Big Bazaar is offering door delivery of groceries and essential items in some cities, including Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Gurgaon, and states, such as Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat, during the 21-day lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, according to posters circulated online. Delivery of essential items will also take place in the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir, according to one of the posters.
Each of these posters shows an employee of the chain standing with folded hands next to a long list of phone numbers for residents of different cities to call for delivery of essential foods and items. The posters say: "Call/WhatsApp to place your order and we will deliver the items at your doorstep".
The posters come as e-commerce firms like Flipkart Big Basket, Grofers and Amazon, offering door delivery of essential items were forced to shut during the "total lockdown" imposed by the Prime Minister in his Tuesday address to the nation, a state of affairs that appears to contradict the government's own guidelines.
"Cold storages and warehouses, as well as delivery of all essentials goods including food and pharmaceuticals through e-commerce are exempted under Home Ministry orders. I have spoken to CS & DGP, Haryana. They have taken immediate action to ensure that supply chains efficiently function for the citizens," Amitabh Kant, the chief executive of the NITI Aayog, a central government planning body, tweeted in response to several complaints on the matter.
Cold storages & Warehouses as well as delivery of all essentials goods including food, pharma thru E- Commerce are exempted under MHA order. I have spoken to CS & DGP, Haryana . They have taken immediate action to ensure that supply chains efficiently function for the citizens. https://t.co/xbtWPw221B— Amitabh Kant (@amitabhk87) March 25, 2020
Deliveries from firms like Big Basket and Grofers have been halted, with police officials in different states closing warehouses amid confusion over the details of the lockdown imposed by the centre and curfew imposed by each state government.
Earlier deliveries were being allowed but there was a delay of days in orders reaching customs.
They should give me specifics - State & location. I will act on it by getting in touch with concerned authorities & sorting it out. Govt guidelines exempt them. We will ensure that citizens are not impacted. https://t.co/Njx1UmrVvS— Amitabh Kant (@amitabhk87) March 25, 2020
Today Safal, the fruits and vegetable brand of the Mother Dairy group, also said that its outlets will be operating at full capacity. Flipkart, Amazon and others, however, have still suspended operations.
Panic buying followed Prime Minister Modi's announcement Tuesday night, with people in many states rushing to stores to stock up. Images from major cities like Delhi and Mumbai showed people crowding around shops and complaining of soaring prices.
Shops also shut, fearing action by the police amid confusion over what can and cannot stay open.
The government had earlier released guidelines that said fair price shops and those dealing with food, groceries, fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish and animal fodder would remain open. Those guidelines had said that e-commerce firms supplying essential items would be allowed to function.
In response to the panic various states have moved to assure people that there is no need to panic buy and hoard essential goods as no shortage is expected. This morning Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal made the same point in a press conference.
Others, like Punjab, have said they will enforce a government-supervised door delivery of essential items to stop the panic buying.
Meanwhile, under the lockdown, and curfew imposed in several states, people have been prohibited from leaving their homes, except in an emergency, to minimise contact and stop the COVID-19 virus that spreads via droplets of bodily fluid when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The COVID-19 virus has infected nearly 600 people in India and has been linked to the deaths of at least 10 people. Worldwide the virus, which originated in China's Wuhan district in December last year, has killed over 16,300 people and infected over 3.75 lakh others.