Days after permitting the online sale of goods like mobile phones, refrigerators, clothes, television sets and laptops, the Ministry of Home Affairs on Sunday again banned the supply of non-essential goods by e-commerce companies during the lockdown period.
Last week the government had included the sale of some non-essential goods, through e-commerce platforms, on a list of activities and services to be allowed from April 20 in areas least affected by the coronavirus outbreak, a decision that invited criticism from the Confederation of Indian Traders (CAIT).
— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) April 19, 2020
“More than 40 lakh traders are supplying essential goods since lockdown came into effect. Side-lining and ignoring them, e-commerce companies have been allowed to deliver non-essential goods from April 20,” Praveen Khandelwal, CAIT Secretary-General, told a news agency.
“When the lockdown was announced, these e-commerce companies suspended operations. We want to know today what is the necessity for which they have been given permission. We have no objection if they are given permission to provide essential services, but why non-essential goods,” he had asked.
CAIT subsequently wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to intervene in this matter.
On Saturday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh led a meeting to discuss re-starting select economic activities and services in non-containment zones after April 20 to boost the faltering economy.
After the meeting, the government released a list of activities and services that will be functional from April 20 in parts of the country least affected by the coronavirus outbreak. These activities and services will not be allowed in coronavirus hotspots, the government cautioned.
Guidelines on re-opening some sectors and allowing some activities in non-COVID-19 hotspot districts came after Prime Minister Modi extended the lockdown to May 3. The decision came after a meeting with 13 chief ministers who pointed to the lockdown’s impact on the economy.
Although the lockdown has been credited with saving lakhs of lives—the Centre has claimed 8.2 lakh could have been infected otherwise, it has also hit the economy hard. The IMF has said it expects the economy to grow by only 1.9 per cent this year.