With no e-tailing services available and provision store owners expressing their inability to make home-delivery of goods during the lockdown imposed in the wake of coronavirus outbreak, NGOs have been providing home delivery services in Jasdan, a town of around 65,000 residents in Rajkot district.
Rajkot district has been under lockdown since March 22 as it has emerged one of the hotspots of the coronavirus infection in the state. As of Wednesday, the district had 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19. District Collector Remya Mohan had directed the local administration to ensure that people remain indoors and also they get daily essential items without any disruption.
“We held a meeting with provision store-owners of the town and asked them to start home delivery services. But they expressed their inability. Therefore, we contacted NGOs. They agreed to act as home-delivery service providers. It was launched on March 25,” said Priyankkumar Galchar, Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of Jasdan.
Mahadev Group, AG Group and Swami Vivekananda Mokshadham Trust (SVMT) have assigned 50 volunteers to act as links between provision stores and customers as well as between farmers and households.
While the Mahadev Group and AG Group are informal groups of like-minded people, SVMT is a registered NGO working for the development of a crematorium in Jasdan. The local administration has issued passes to the 50 volunteers allowing them to go home-to-home on their bikes to deliver ration, milk, vegetables, medicines etc.
Durgesh Kubavat, a leader of the Mahadev Group said that they are not collecting delivery charges. “We do social service and help the needy. College students, small businessmen and traders are volunteering as delivery boys,” said Kubavat.
Jayanti Dholariya, president of SVMT said that to ensure transparency, they have formed a WhatsApp group in which representatives of provision store owners are also members.
Once a person calls to place an order, the customer is asked to send his or her address and items needed through a WhatsApp message. A volunteer purchases ordered items from a store and asks for a bill. Then, the volunteer goes to the given address, delivers goods, gets bill signed by the customer, collects money and clicks a photo of goods being handed over. Eventually, the volunteer goes back to the store and pays money to the store-owner.
“For vegetables, our team goes to APMC yard and purchases top quality vegetables. Every day, response has been increasing. We served around 50 orders on Tuesday,” said Dholariya.
AG Services’ Amit Trivedi, who is an electrical engineer and helps people use digital services has formed a team of 18 friends. “We have 10 motorbikes. Two persons go on a bike for home-delivery,” said Trivedi.
The services function under Aapatkalin Seva Samiti, Jasdan, a committee formed by the Jasdan SDM and which includes the NGOs.
The initiative has come a relief for the residents during the lockdown period.
“I ordered potatoes and a few other vegetables yesterday. They were delivered within an hour at rates marginally lower than market prices and the quality was good. This is a big help in times like these,” said Gitesh Ambani who runs an electric shop.
Provision store-owners said that due to restrictions on movement and fear of their staff contracting the coronavirus infection, they backed away from the idea of home-delivery services. “I asked two of my staff members to stay home since the lockdown began, fearing they may face problems in commuting and can even catch the infection. Without manpower, home-delivery is not possible,” said Darshak Diwan of Dahyalal Chakubhai, a provision store in Chhatri Bazaar of Jasdan.
To prevent crowding, the administration has shut the formal vegetable market on Adamji Road as well as the informal one at Old Bus Station. “These two places remain crowded throughout the day in normal days. We had to prevent crowding even at places selling essential items. So, we asked the vendors at Old Bus Station to not assemble at one place but instead sell vegetables by moving the streets with their handcarts. To those who were serviced by the main vegetable market, we made the option available of home delivery or purchasing from street vendors,” SDM Galchar said.
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