As supply cripples, UP CM directs officials to ensure doorstep delivery of food items

Asad Rehman, Maulshree Seth

CM Yogi Adityanath said that the government is also contemplating to start community kitchen to supply eatables to labourers and poor during the 21-day lockdown, slated to last on April 14. (Twitter/CMOfficeUP)

Amid crippling supply of essential items and allegations of police high-handedness against delivery agents, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday directed senior officials to ensure door-to-door delivery of essential commodities to people to help them stay indoors during the 21-day nationwide lockdown against the spread of coronavirus.

Briefing mediapersons after the CM held a meeting with senior officials and reviewed the situation arising out of the coronavirus spread and the countrywide lockdown to stem it, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi said the government had pressed into service 12,133 delivery vehicles, including vans, e-rickshaws for 'doorstep delivery", and more work is being done to smoothen the supply chain

He said the government is also contemplating to start community kitchen to supply eatables to labourers and poor during the 21-day lockdown, slated to last on April 14.

The decisions were taken as people started complaining of unavailability of essential items. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown on Tuesday 8 pm, there were reports of panic buying across the state despite PM's assurance that grocery shops, chemists will stay open during the lockdown.

On Wednesday, grocery store owners accused police of harassing delivery staff, leading to disruption in services.

A prominent shop owner in Lucknow's Mahanagar area said the delivery personnel working at his shop could not reach because the police stooped them. "To reach the shop, the two delivery staff, who also work as shop help, have to travel around four km. They called me and said they had started from home but were stopped at a police picket and asked to return. The policemen did not budge even though they told them that they work at a grocery store," said the owner. He added, "I could not open my shop because I can't work alone and the police and the administration are not making it clear what the timings are for shops to remain open."

Another prominent shopkeeper in New Hyderabad area of Lucknow had a similar complaint. "Four youths and a salesgirl work at my shop. They couldn't come to work because of the police. The police and administration must issue passes to people who work at shops where essential commodities are sold," said the shopkeeper, whose shop was also shut after Wednesday noon.

At the Sitapur Road vegetable and fruit wholesale market, traders complained that very few vendors were allowed to come to the mandi on Wednesday. "Only 10 per cent of the usual number of vendors who came generally could reach the wholesale market on Wednesday. Vendors from Nishatganj, Vikas Nagar, Dandaiyya and several other areas did not come on Wednesday. Some of them called the traders here and said the police are stopping them. The police must find a way to let people doing essential jobs move around," said a trader at the wholesale market in Lucknow.

He said the wholesale market has sufficient stock of vegetables for some days, adding, "But if vendors are not allowed to travel to the mandi, how will the stock reach people?"

Other areas in Lucknow faced similar issues with some indulging in black marketing of goods due to supply shortage after panic buying in the city on Tuesday night after the PM's announcement about the 21-day lockdown across India.

In the Gomti Nagar extension area, the Residents Welfare Associations of apartments banned the entry of newspaper vendors, delivery boys to apartment buildings. "Milkmen were also told to wait at the entrance gate of the apartments," said a resident.

Similar issues were faced by shopkeepers in Prayagraj, Kanpur and Varanasi and other districts. In Prayagraj, a shopkeeper who runs a departmental store in Khuldabad area said, "The supply of foodgrains and other commodities has been stopped from wholesalers for a few days now. After last night, the stock is almost over. This is worrying us."

Taking note of the complaints, Senior administrative and police officials in Lucknow said that passes would be made for delivery personnel of essential services and around 6,000 such staff have been shortlisted.

Additional Chief Secretary Awanish Awasthi said, “It is due to the lockdown that the supply chain has been affected, but it will take a few days for things to settle down. Trucks are being stopped, but passes are being made for essential supply trucks. Passes will be made for delivery boys, too.”

Lucknow Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Naveen Arora said, “I don’t think people who work at shops selling essentials have been stopped at many places. We have been giving detailed instructions to policemen about who has to be stopped and who has to be allowed to move. If a person can’t show any identification papers, in this situation, it is difficult for police to figure out who is lying and who is not. The situation today was better than yesterday. It was because of detailed instructions. The administration has also shortlisted 6,000 delivery persons who will be given passes. We have also asked vendors with carts to go to every house and sell vegetables and fruits. We are making the best efforts to deal with the situation.”

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