Just when they were needed the most, online grocers have not been able to fulfil customers needs. Faced with a 21-day national lockdown, Indians all over the country turned to online apps to get their essential groceries, but the apps were not able to deliver.
The online grocers not being able to deliver cited "restrictions by authorities" as a primary reason. The impasse may end soon after a series of meetings between police personnel and app representatives.
Here is the issue that consumers faced. Big Basket, for instance, has this message as soon as one opens the app.
"“Dear Customer, we are not operational due to restrictions imposed by local authorities on the movement of goods in spite of clear guidelines provided by central authorities to enable essential services. We are working with the authorities to be back soon.” " - Big Basket
It was a similar situation with Big Basket's rival, Grofers as well. The company says it is in talks with authorities.
We will start accepting orders and delivering your essential groceries at the earliest. Local authorities are helping us in restarting our operations. We thank you for your patience and look forward to serving you soon.— Grofers (@Grofers) March 25, 2020
Licious, a meat delivery platform, also had a similar message.
Many of the delivery executives from e-commerce firms and online grocers were stopped and faced harassment from police personnel. Some even say their executives were beaten up.
Here's a statement from Anant Narayanan, CEO and co-founder, Medlife, an online chemist, which comes under essential services:
"Medlife delivery personnel Prakash in Delhi in the Todapur area was bringing back curfew passes and was hit by the cops on the way back to the fulfillment center. In the process he was injured and suffered bruises on his face and body. We now also have reports of similar incidents in Bangalore.
The indiscriminate use of force and against delivery personnel specifically exempted by the government and the lifeline during the shutdown will disrupt services. The essential services sector has to be free of harassment and violence.
We request the state governments and concerned authorities to ensure that strict instructions are given to the police to permit delivery personnel with valid documentation perform their duties in these times of crisis."
Milk Basket, another online grocer primarily dealing with the delivery of perishables like fresh milk, fruits and vegetables, sent its customers a notification saying it wasn't able to complete all deliveries – and this was even before the complete lockdown.
Forced to dump 15,000 liters of milk, 10 tonnes of fruits and vegetables in one day. @gurgaonpolice do you know anything about this harassmemt of @HelloMilkbasket delivery staff? pic.twitter.com/yr9GPOYKTX— PKR | প্রশান্ত | پرشانتو (@prasanto) March 24, 2020
Essential services, including online delivery of groceries and medicines, have been exempted from the 21-day nationwide lockdown in an attempt to "flatten the curve" of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, essential services being exempt from the lockdown is clearly mentioned in the directive from the ministry, and also tweeted by Delhi Police.
Why Are Online Grocers Being Stopped?
Clearly, there is miscommunication between the decision-makers and those that implement the curfew/lockdown on the ground.
Taking note of the complaints from online grocers, the commissioner of police in Bengaluru, Bhaskar Rao, has called for a meeting of their representatives.
I have called a meeting of online,e commerce food, medicine, groceries, vegetables/ fruits or animal products delivery aggregatorsTODAYat 7 pm at My office,No1, Infantry Road, Bangalore. One representative from each agency may please come. We promise all cooperation, please come.— Bhaskar Rao IPS (@deepolice12) March 25, 2020
Delhi Police also had a meeting with representatives from e-commerce firms and has said passes will be issued to delivery agents.
"“I had a meeting with e-commerce website representatives, they shared the problems faced by them in the movement of essential goods. We have issued passes to them and assured that their delivery agents will be helped by the police.”" - MS Randhawa, PRO, Delhi Police
Delivery agents and other personnel connected with essential services need to apply for passes to the Delhi Police. They have to carry a print out of the pass and their ID cards while going about delivering goods.
Delhi government is also issuing e-passes for essential service deliveries, so expect the delivery services to get streamlined in a day or two.
E-Passes are being issued for those providing essential services, suppliers of groceries etc. Anyone facing issues in transit can call the helpline number in Delhi: 011 23469536
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