Coronavirus update: Govt relaxes restrictions on transportation of goods
Covid-19 update: The home ministry reiterated that groceries, earlier classified as an essential commodity, will also include items such as handwash, surface cleaners, battery cells, toothbrush and oral care products.
The Union home ministry said on Sunday that all goods in addition to essential commodities will be allowed to move across states, relaxing rules in order to unclog highways where hundreds of trucks have been stuck since Tuesday, when the government ordered a nationwide lockdown in order to stop the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.
The latest directive was among two communications sent to all states, laying down more clarifications on what constitutes as essential commodities and services that can be carried out during the lockdown. The ministry also reiterated that states need to ensure the lockdown is enforced strictly and the movement of migrant labours is halted.
“With the first addendum, transportation of all goods, without distinction of essential and non-essential, have been allowed,” said the letter sent on Sunday to all state chief secretaries by Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla.
The reference to the first addendum was to an order issued on March 25 by the home ministry, adding “inter-state movement of goods and transport for inland and exports” as one of the exceptions in the rule banning all air, rail and road transport.
“Allowing transportation of all goods would mean that truckers stuck in highways across the country after the lockdown would be able to reach their destination. It would also let truckers who are not stuck and without items, freeing up more capacity for essential services,” said a government official aware of the discussions to add the exceptions, asking not to be named.
“Should the need arise for mass transport of items to any corner of the country, transportation capacity would hence be available,” the official added.
While non-essential items will be moved, the ban on their sale – including through websites such as Amazon and Flipkart -- continues.
Home secretary Bhalla and Union cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba also spoke to chief secretaries and state police chiefs on Sunday morning, when it was communicated that individual district officials will be held responsible for the implementation of the lockdown.
The home ministry reiterated that groceries, earlier classified as an essential commodity, will also include items such as handwash, surface cleaners, battery cells, toothbrush and oral care products.
The services of the Red Cross have also been included in the list of those exempted from the ban.
The letter also referenced other directions in the second order, which include prohibiting home owners from seeking rent from people for a month and employers from withholding salaries.
“Our top priority at this time is delivery products that customers need the most. We continue to resume services gradually, adding in more cities as we get the necessary clearances and passes from the local authorities. We are first serving existing orders for essential products and accepting new orders for these items only. We continue to work with the Central and local authorities to urgently enable us to deliver essential products to customers, so that they can continue to stay home and keep India safe,” digital retailer Amazon said in a statement.