As people resort to panic buying amid a lockdown, the department for the promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) has issued a five-point instruction to state governments to ensure operations of manufacturers, wholesellers and retailers of food products and medicines and their delivery services are not 'obstructed' in any manner.
E-commerce players dealing with these products and services, including Grofers, BigBasket, Zomato and Swiggy are allowed to operate. Despite this directive, some media reports have suggested that local police in certain states is not allowing food delivery agents or other key service providers to move around, causing a temporary disruption in supplies of critical goods or services.
In a letter to chief secretaries of all states on March 23, a day before a pan-India lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, DPIIT secretary Guruprasad Mohapatra said, "For the consumer items to be readily available in the market, all food processing companies should be allowed to keep their manufacturing facilities open under the strictest of safety and hygiene guidelines and any executive order or section 144 restrictions should include the exemption of these manufacturing facilities, distribution and sales channels servicing the food and beverage market, including food delivery services, as also employees associated with such activities."
The secretary has also asked for adequate steps to ensure smooth interstate movement as well as supply of goods and services - especially for e-commerce and food processing - and smooth functioning of their delivery agents.
Similarly, he has directed that organised trade, including cash and carry, chemists and pharmacies that stock and sell food products and medicines must be allowed to remain open.
Workers and operators at the retail outlets, pharmacies and manufacturing units should also be allowed to travel to their unit to carry out their responsibilities. Even transport vehicles carrying raw materials to the processing units need to be permitted without any hindrance.
"Your attention to this item of work will go a long way in maintaining requisite flow of essential goods, preventing panic purchase and ensuring we all keep safe in these challenging times," Mohapatra said.