Leading online retail platforms, including Flipkart, Amazon and Reliance JioMart, have suspended orders for non-essential products in Maharashtra, following the state government’s fresh guidelines which permit delivery of only essential goods through e-commerce.
The e-commerce industry is making representations through bodies such as Nasscom, FICCI and CII to the Maharashtra government and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), seeking reversal of the order which was issued by the state.
The Maharashtra government in its latest guidelines announced a state-wide lockdown from 8:00 pm on April 14 to 7:00 am on May 1. While it included e-commerce in the essential services category, these companies would be allowed to deliver “only essential goods and services”.
“Letters are being sent to the Maharashtra government and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) requesting that restrictions don’t carve out distinctions between essential and non-essential goods and services, because people who are stuck at home need access to everything,” said a person aware of the development.
“These representations being made by FICCI, CII and Nasscom will essentially say that the MHA after an initial phase of attempting to allow only the sale of essentials through e-commerce, permitted the sale of everything in May last year. and that’s what should be followed even now,” the person cited above said on the condition of anonymity.
Other senior executives of e-commerce firms said that companies have stopped taking orders for products apart from grocery, personal care and hygiene products as they would not be allowed to ship these products until May 1.
A quick search on platforms such as Flipkart, Amazon, Reliance’s JioMart and Myntra showed that orders of non-essentials had been turned off for pin codes in Maharashtra. A notice on Amazon’s website read, “In light of the latest government guidelines, we are taking orders of essential products only. Deliveries may take longer than normal.”
On Flipkart, listings carried a tag of “not deliverable” in most categories apart from groceries. JioMart in Maharashtra doesn’t show any products apart from groceries, while it was still accepting orders for fashion and jewellery in other parts of the country.
“Even the Madhya Pradesh government has allowed the sale of non-essentials in the state after the industry made representations to it,” said a Senior Executive at a leading e-commerce marketplace. “Just because some associations make noise, the Maharashtra government can’t put these arbitrary restrictions on us.”
“We’re not asking offline shops selling non-essentials to remain shut. They should be allowed to function, but using the infrastructure available to them only to do home delivery,” the person added.
Representatives from FICCI and CII had a meeting with the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) CEO, where they requested the state to remove the distinction between essential and non-essential products, as it also creates issues while implementing it on the ground.
The Maharashtra government had last week mandated that all supply-chain workers of e-commerce firms should either be vaccinated or carry negative RT-PCR certificates starting April 11. The immense load on the state’s Covid-19 testing infrastructure meant that while workers had been tested, results for their tests were delayed, prompting the state to extend the deadline for carrying negative Covid-19 tests by a further five days.