Coronavirus fear: Centre defines grocery for states, eases rules for trucks

Food, groceries, vegetables, milk products, meat, agriculture produce, fertiliser, and drugs are among exempted items
The Union government on Friday asked states to take immediate measures to ensure a free flow of essential items and keep the supply chain going. In a letter to chief secretaries of all states, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla clarified what constituted food and grocery and the exemptions during the nationwide lockdown, while easing the norms for issuing curfew passes and truck movement to help remove the supply chain hurdles. The objective was to clear the ambiguities at the ground level, an official said.

In another letter, Bhalla reiterated that exceptions allowed for the agriculture sector must be communicated to all field agencies for smooth harvesting and sowing operations.

“At the ground level, different interpretations are being made on the items given exceptions, which hinder a smooth flow of supply chain of these essential items,’’ Bhalla said in the letter reviewed by Business Standard. Referring to queries received by the government on what constitutes food and grocery, he said, “since it is neither feasible nor desirable to mention each item of food and grocery in the guidelines, the state/union territory governments are advised to interpret these terms to mean all items of food and grocery that are usually consumed by people on day to day basis.’’

The government, has, however clarified that grocery would include hygiene products such as hand wash, soaps, disinfectants, body wash, shampoo, surface cleaners, detergents, tissue paper, toothpaste, oral care, sanitary pads, diapers, chargers and battery cells, etc. In the last one week, several companies have had to face the hurdle of making a distinction between what’s essential and what’s not.

On the difficulty faced by businesses in getting curfew passes despite production, warehousing and transport of essential goods being in the “exception’’ list , states/UTs have now been told to give out authorisation letters to companies/organisations having nationwide supply chains. This is expected to help these businesses get regional passes for easy movement of critical staff and workers to maintain their national supply chain. “The number of such authorisation should be kept to bare minimum,’’ according to the letter. Currently, companies including e-commerce firms have to follow different rules for each state and even city, making it tough to do business efficiently.

As cargo movement by railways, airports and seaports is also not easy during the lockdown period, the Centre has asked “designated authorities under railways, ports and airports to issue passes for a critical mass of staff and contractual labour’’ essential for such operations.

Addressing the issue of trucks full of essential goods being stuck on highways because of administrative issues, the Centre has clarified that “inter-state and intra-state movement of all trucks and other goods/carrier vehicles with one driver and one additional person is allowed as long as the driver is carrying a valid driver’s licence’’. Also, if the truck/vehicle is travelling empty, invoice and way-bill etc must be carried by the drivers for delivery or pick up of goods. Movement of driver and another person from the same place should also be facilitated by local authorities, the letter has said.

The list of exempted items include food, groceries, fruit, vegetable, dairy, milk products, meat, fish, seeds, fertiliser, pesticides, agriculture produce, drugs, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.


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