Govt issues SOP for availability of essential goods during lockdown

New Delhi, Mar 26 (PTI) The Union Home Ministry on Thursday issued Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on availability of essential goods during the lockdown period and asked state governments to ensure smooth functioning of people involved and services.

The ministry said there should be no interruptions in the services of small retail shops, large organised retail stores and e-commerce companies.

In the two-page SOP, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said essential commodities are available to people through small local retail shops, large organised retail stores and e-commerce companies.

The SOP said in order to ensure smooth functioning of these three types of operators, it is important that constituents of the supply chain, are also allowed to operate.

These constituents include suppliers of essential goods, including restaurants supplying home delivery of cooked food items; and facilities for storage of such essential goods which, may be known as warehouse, godown etc.

It also allowed movement of transporters, drivers, loaders etc. of essential goods from the place of manufacture to wholesalers or retailers.

The SOP said that such transportation may involve intra-city, inter-city in same state or union territory or inter-state movement of essential goods; and manufacturing units of essential goods including drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, their raw material and intermediates.

The home secretary said THE purpose of the lockdown is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 epidemic by ensuring social distancing while maintaining supply of essential goods, including health infrastructure and home delivery of food.

He said several services were exempted from the lockdown that include ration shops, shops dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk products, meat and fish, animal fodder, seeds and pesticides and home delivery of these essential goods shall be encouraged.

'It is also provided that delivery of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment through e-commerce will remain operational,' the letter said.

Bhalla said those enforcing authorities must note that these strict restrictions fundamentally relate to movement of people, but not to that of essential goods.

'It is therefore, important that availability of essential goods is ensured to relieve the hardship faced by people during the period of lockdown' he said.

The SOP said all facilities in the supply chain of essential goods, whether involved in manufacturing, wholesale or retail of such goods through local stores, large brick and mortar stores or e-commerce companies should be allowed to operate, ensuring strict social distancing.

All such facilities as registered with the state governments or union territories under the shops and establishment registration regime, which can be used to randomly verify the veracity of documents produced.

While warehousing facilities with wholesalers and retailers of essential goods might have non-essential goods, they should not be closed down for the fact that non-essential items are also stored.

The SOP said the retail end of the supply chain shall operate only in essential goods as specified in the orders of the MHA.

They will provide an undertaking to this effect and also allow subsequent audit of their records with a view to ensure compliance.

The employees or persons engaged in the supply chain shall be allowed to commute on the basis of certification issued by the local authorities concerned and these people shall carry a valid photo identity card.

In case of the unorganised sector, persons engaged in supply of essential goods may be allowed based on approval or authorisation issued by local authority.

These commercial entities will ensure that they engage only bare minimum staff to supply essential goods only.

These facilities shall carry out regular health and sanitation check-up of employees engaged and will provide them with proper protective gear, the SOP said.

The state governments shall open a 24x7 control room to register complaints or grievances and share these numbers widely, the SOP added. PTI ACB ZMN