INDIA: The home ministry took a U-turn and revised its order that allowed sale of non-essential items such as electronics via e-commerce companies. Now, with its new order the ministry has revoked the permission and barred e-commerce companies from selling non-essential commodities from 20th April.These companies can only sell essential items till the end of the national lockdown on 3 May.

In its order, MHA said, “In continuation of Ministry of Home Affairs order dated April 15, 2020 and in the exercise of the powers, conferred under Section 10(2)(1) of the Disaster Management Act, the National Executive Committee exclude e-commerce from the consolidated revised guidelines for strict implementation by ministries/department of the government of India, state/union territory government and authorities.

The decision comes just days after it had allowed these companies to sell non-essentials, if vehicles carrying such products had the necessary permissions and passes.

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has shared the list of what will remain open all over India effective April 20. This includes healthcare, agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and animal husbandry. He has also made it clear that these will not be applicable in containment zones.

As per the revised order, the ministry has excluded the clause, which had earlier specified, “e-commerce companies and vehicles used by e-commerce operators will be allowed to ply with necessary permissions,” in its guidelines issued on 15 April.

After strong pressure from Retailers association of India(RAI), CAIT (The Confederation of All India Traders) and other local vendors, which lobbied that if ecommerce companies were allowed to supply consumers with non-essential items, tt was seen as discriminatory to allow e-commerce companies to sell non-essentials while barring local shops/stores from doing the same

Congress too yesterday objected to this alleged discrimination between local traders and e-commerce companies and asked home ministry to clarify its order on e-commerce companies.

Sources even pointed concerns within the government regarding adherence to safety and social distancing norms during delivery, especially in the wake of a recent case in Delhi involving a pizza delivery person who tested positive for Covid-19 and led to 72 families in the area where he was delivering, being placed under home quarantine.

“It’s a dynamic situation and the guidelines are revised as the situation demands,” said a senior government officer.