The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Sunday clarified that supply of non-essential goods by e-commerce companies will remain prohibited during the lockdown.
The Ministry also issued guidelines for the movement of migrant labourers living in relief camps to their workplace, within the boundaries of a State, in areas where the lockdown will be relaxed from April 20.
The Ministry asserted that there will be no inter-State movement of labourers. They will be registered, screened and those who are asymptomatic would be transported to their places of work by ensuring social distancing measures. The relaxations will not apply to hotspots or containment zones, and public transport will remain prohibited till May 3.
On April 15, the MHA had revised its guidelines issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, to allow the States to decide on the additional public activities to be allowed from April 20 in non-hotspot zones. It said the additional facilities would have to be based on strict compliance with the existing guidelines on lockdown measures.
As per the April 15 order, “e-commerce companies” and vehicles used by their operators had been allowed but it was not specified if it was applicable to items others than essentials.
On Sunday, the MHA wrote to the States to exclude the e-commerce category from the revised guidelines.
In another letter, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla clarified that e-commerce firms would continue to operate for home delivery of essential goods, as earlier.
Commerce and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted that he was grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the clarification that “e-commerce companies can only supply essential goods during the lockdown”. “This will create a level playing field for small retailers,” he added.
The Confederation of All India Traders issued a statement claiming credit for the exclusion of e-commerce companies.
“CAIT demolished the sinister plan of e-commerce companies to trade in non-essential commodities. Accepting the objection of the CAIT, the MHA excluded the permission granted earlier and now e-commerce can trade only in essential commodities. Thanks to Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh & Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal,” a statement issued by Praveen Khandelwal of CAIT said.
The Congress on Saturday raised the issue stating that allowing e-commerce platforms to sell non-essential products denied a level playing field to traditional retail traders.
Standard Operating Procedures
The Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for stranded migrant labourers issued on Sunday said that due to the spread of COVlD-19 virus, workers employed in industry, agriculture, construction and other sectors have moved from their respective places of work and are housed in relief camps run by State governments. “Since additional new activities, outside the containment zones have been permitted in the consolidated revised guidelines with effect from April 20, these workers could be engaged in industrial, manufacturing, construction, farming and MGNREGA works,” the SOP said.
The MHA said that in order to facilitate their movement “within the State”, the migrant labourers residing in relief camps should be registered with the local authority and their skill mapping be carried out to find out their suitability for various kinds of works.
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“In the event that a group of migrants who wish to return to their places of work within the State where they are presently located they would be screened and those who are asymptomatic would be transported to their respective places of work,” the MHA said.
The Ministry asserted that there will be no movement of labourers outside the State or Union Territory from where they are currently located.
“During the journey by bus, it would be ensured that safe social distancing norms are followed and the buses used for transport are sanitised as per the guidelines of the health authorities… The local authorities shall also provide for food and water, etc., for the duration of their journey,” the MHA said.
The Centre had permitted rural industries, construction of roads, irrigation projects, buildings and industrial projects in rural areas and construction of renewable energy projects under the relaxed guidelines.