By Ishfaq Majid & Shazia Kouser
The number of COVID-19 cases in India has risen to more than 600 (including 40 cured/discharged and 11 deaths). The Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, announced a 21-day nation-wide lockdown starting from 25 March, 2020. With this lockdown many e-commerce and online groceries have faced disruption to their warehouse and delivery operations in India. Though India’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs urged states to allow some e-commerce deliveries to ensure essential supplies, different state notifications created confusion and have marred operations.
The fourth point in the Guidelines released on 24 March 2020 by Ministry of Home Affairs with order no. 40-3/2020-D clearly shows that the commercial and private establishments shall be closed down, whereas shops, including ration shops (under PDS), dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, meat and fish, animal fodder will remain functional. The order further declares that the district authorities may encourage and facilitate home delivery to minimize the movement of individuals outside their homes.
The Indian e-commerce company, Flipkart has suspended its operations. The message on its websites reads, “Hey Fellow Indian, we are temporary suspending our services.” However one day before the start of the 21-day lockdown, the items on the platform were running out of stock.
Another online shopping service, Amazon started displaying this message on its homepage, “To serve customers’ most urgent needs while also ensuring safety of our associates, we are prioritizing all our resources to serve products that are currently high priority for customers. Other products are temporarily unavailable for purchase.”
Similar to this, are many other platforms have suspended their operations.
India’s largest online food and grocery store Bigbasket has also suspended access to its website. The message on its website reads, “We’ll be back soon! We are currently experiencing unprecedented demand. In light of this, we are restricting access to our website to existing customers only. Please try again in a few hours.”
Grofers, an Indian online grocery delivery service, has also restricted its delivery services to some locations only. The message on its website reads, “Due to the sudden rush, we have stopped servicing many locations, but we are working to increase capacity and will be resuming operations shortly.”
The popular online shopping platform Paytm Mall seems to be working but the delivery date on the items shows after 10 April which is giving a tough times to its customers. Most of the items are showing ‘unable to be delivered’ from their Gandhinagar, Gujarat, location.
Big Bazaar, an Indian retail chain of hypermarkets, has started to share its door step delivery methods on its twitter handle. The Indian retail platform is displaying telephone numbers of various stores state-wise where the customers can call and place their orders. But the locations are limited.
From the very beginning, the government has been directing the masses for self-distancing so that the virus cannot spread. However, due to the closing of online stores, people are unable to meet their need for basic necessities, required for the survival of human beings. If the e-commerce platforms keep shut, more people will move out of their houses and crowd shops, posing a serious hazard of COVID-19 transmission.
Ishfaq Majid & Shazia Kouser are Jammu and Kashmir-based Research Scholars at the School of Education, Central University of Gujarat. The authors are exploring the area of Information and Communication Technology in Education. Their writing had earlier appeared in The Diplomat, Economic and Political Weekly, Medium, Qatar Tribune, Mainstream Weekly, South Asia Journal and Café Dissensus.
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