India needs to adopt uniform code to Provide Essentials to Citizens While Social Distancing

Local administrations in various states and the private sector have come together to respond quickly and effectively to the 21-day nationwide lockdown to prevent spread of Covid-19 in India. The steps are aimed at ensuring access of essential supplies – from groceries to baby formula to sanitary products – a national lifeline has been created across the length and breadth of India.

Central to these efforts are small and medium sellers across the country who are stocking up on critical needs that e-commerce companies deliver to citizens wherever they are. The priorities continue to be household staples and medical supplies, which thousands of small sellers are gearing up to quickly receive, restock and ship.

E-commerce companies are working with delivery associates to put in place precautionary measures as per WHO guidelines, including:

  • No stand-up meetings during shifts are being allowed
  • All business essential information is to be shared via boards near main areas and through conversations with managers
  • Temporary cell phones have been made available to those who need to be in contact with their families
  • Maintaining levels of safety whereby all their associates are required to stay home and seek medical attention if they are feeling unwell

A critical role is played by delivery associates who brave multiple challenges to ensure that deliveries take place in a safe and timely manner. These associates are frontline workers who set out every day to ensure that essentials reach their intended destination in an environment of lockdown.

The administration, on its part, has eased movement by exempting e-commerce from the lockdown. While some authorities such as the Pune Police have innovated by issuing passes connected to Fastag for seamless movement and issuing e-passes, others, such as Delhi, have gone a step further in reducing friction by eliminating the need for curfew passes for delivery associates, authorizing their company ID cards instead. These measures result in faster and more reliable delivery of essentials to citizens.

Kazim Rizvi, founder-director, The Dialogue, said, “In a time of crisis, India has demonstrated remarkable unity of purpose among sellers, e-commerce firms, delivery associates, as well as national and local administrative machinery. We’ve seen around the world that Covid-19 cases are better contained in countries where citizens stay at home, as our Prime Minister has advised. Even as they work together with the common goal of providing citizens with what they need while they take life-saving social distancing measures, it is imperative that there is no operational disruption to the provision of essentials at any point in the supply chain and that all entities cooperate with one another at the ground level.”