New Delhi: Police in Delhi and Gurugram have assured residents that e-commerce services like Zomato, Big Basket, Amazon and Flipkart will continue to function during the 21-day Covid-19 nationwide lockdown that came into effect Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, PM Modi declared a lockdown across the country in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Establishments offering ‘essential services’ such as groceries, food and pharmaceuticals, including online retailers, are exempt from the lockdown.
However, amid the social-distancing advisories that have been in place in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially since the one-day janata curfew Sunday, there have been reports of delivery executives being intercepted by police and prohibited from delivering goods.
The Delhi and Gurugram police’s Twitter reassurances come as the restrictions and their allegedly random enforcement induced panic in the public about the continued availability of essential goods.
“We are proactively engaging with e-commerce portals for seamless delivery of essential commodities to residents of Delhi,” said Delhi Police on Twitter.
We are proactively engaging with e-commerce portals for seamless delivery of essential commodities to residents of Delhi.@HMOIndia @LtGovDelhi @CPDelhi #StayAtHomeSaveLives #FightbackIndia #LockdownQuery https://t.co/1hgcIRAFqB
— Delhi Police (@DelhiPolice) March 25, 2020
Gurugram Police issued a similar message, with a tweet tagging e-commerce portals including Zomato, Flipkart, Amazon, Swiggy, Big Basket, Grofers as well as courier major Bluedart.
All officers of Gurugram Police have been directed that following online delivery services @zomato @flipkart @amazon @bluedart @wow_express @swiggy @groffers @bigbasket @milkbasket @dunzo @bigbazzar @Iffco Tokyo goods shall be allowed to operate.
— Gurugram Police (@gurgaonpolice) March 25, 2020
Delhi Police public relations officer (PRO) M.S. Randhawa told news agency ANI Wednesday he had attended a meeting with e-commerce website representatives where they shared the problems they faced in transporting essential goods.
“We have issued passes to them and assured that their delivery agents will be helped by the police,” said Randhawa.
Over the past three days, since the janata curfew, there have been reports that local authorities have been turning away delivery agents. Some delivery agents have reportedly also been arrested and physically assaulted by police.
“Our delivery partners are facing several hurdles across cities while trying to deliver food which has been classified as an essential service. We are communicating with the relevant authorities and hoping these issues are sorted soon,” a Zomato spokesperson was quoted as saying in a report published Wednesday by news agency IANS.
Punjab ties up with Swiggy, Zomato to streamline delivery
Meanwhile, in Punjab, police Wednesday tied up with Zomato and Swiggy in order to deploy their network of agents to ensure doorstep delivery of essentials to residents across the state.
On Monday, Punjab became the first state to impose a curfew, a day before the national lockdown was announced. With the state administration allowing no exceptions to the curfew, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh promised Tuesday that all essential items including milk, vegetables, fruits, groceries and medicines would be delivered to residents at their doorstep.
A huge system was put in place that mainly included state police to ensure residents did not run short of essentials during the curfew. District-wise helpline numbers were made public, as was a list of shops allowed to remain open for delivery. For the poor and the homeless, police were asked to organise langars and distribute the meals.
Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta said in a media statement Wednesday that, in order to streamline the system, police approached food-delivery apps because they already had the requisite infrastructure in place. In Amritsar and Ludhiana, he said, 650 delivery agents associated with Swiggy were engaged for home delivery of goods like groceries and pharmaceuticals, while in Patiala, this was done in coordination with agents from Zomato and Swiggy.
“For the supply of milk, entities like Verka and Amul have been roped in for ensuring decentralised distribution… following proper social-distancing measures,” he added.
Police have also established outreach with the merchant leader (pradhan) of sabzi mandis for the delivery of vegetables. Information about the availability of home delivery services is being disseminated through WhatsApp groups.
Even the lockdown guidelines issued by the central government Tuesday tasked district authorities with facilitating home delivery of essentials to minimise the public’s movement outside their homes.
This report has been updated with additional information