New Delhi: The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Friday issued a fresh notification that allows state governments to decide the food and groceries they want exempt from the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown.
Food and groceries are among a bouquet of essentials that are exempt from the nationwide lockdown in place since last week. The new order, which is meant to ease supplies, also permits states to authorise organisations with nationwide supply chains to issue regional passes for critical local staff.
“Queries have been received as to what constitutes food and grocery. Since it is neither feasible nor desirable to mention each item of food and grocery in the guidelines, the States/UT Governments are advised to interpret these terms to mean all items of food and grocery that are usually consumed by people on day-to-day basis,” the MHA said in the order.
The order also noted the difficulties that exempt businesses with nationwide supply chains were facing in ensuring the free movement of staff. To this end, the ministry has asked state governments to issue “authorisation letters to companies/organisations having nationwide supply chains of essential goods, allowing them to issue regional passes for easy movement of critical staff and workers in order to maintain their national supply chains”.
‘Meant to ease supply chains’
Highly placed sources in the government said the lockdown imposed on 25 March had disrupted the supply chain of essential goods, thus prompting the fresh move.
“Essentially, the idea is to leave it to states to decide what falls under the essential category. The lockdown will continue, but a substantial easing of restrictions will be done to ease the supply chain,” said a senior government official who did not wish to be identified.
Among other things, the order also empowers the authorities under railways, ports and airports to issue passes for “critical mass of staff and contractual labour” essential to cargo movement as well as relief and evacuation efforts.
The home ministry has also decided to allow inter-state and intra-state movement of trucks and other goods vehicles with one “additional person”, along with the driver, as long as the latter is carrying a valid driver’s licence.
“Movement of driver and one person from their place of residence to truck should also be facilitated by local authorities,” the order stated, adding that all such movement will have to adhere to hygiene and social distancing norms.