As the national coronavirus lockdown entered its fifth day, the Home Ministry on Sunday, in a directive to all states and Union territories, further expanded the list of essential supplies and services while allowing transportation of non-essential items also during the 21-day period.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, in a letter to chief secretaries of the states and the Union territories, also made it clear that the newspaper delivery supply chain was also allowed under exemptions. In the earlier list of exemptions issued by the government, it had said that print and electronic media would remain open.
Bhalla said the entire supply chain of milk collection and distribution, including its packing materials, has also been allowed during the lockdown period.
While the earlier list of exemptions had ration shops, outlets dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, dairy, the new directive includes hygiene products as well. These products are hand wash, soaps, disinfectants, oral care items, battery cells and chargers.
The Centre also included the services of the Indian Red Cross Society under the Establishment of National Disaster Management Authority.
List of Home Ministry exemptions
Earlier, as many as four clarification notes had to be issued by the Home Ministry since the PM’s speech announcing a 21-day lockdown to expand the list of essential supplies and services.
After several reports of police toppling vegetable carts, stopping supply trucks, there were new additions to the Home Ministry’s list of essential items and services almost every day since the PM’s speech.
After the PM’s announcement on March 24 at 8 pm, the MHA issued guidelines on restrictions and said that “shops, including ration shops dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, meat and fish, animal fodder” were exempted.
But March 25 saw chaos on the ground with stores running out of supplies as trucks were not allowed to cross borders, vegetable and fruit kiosks were forcibly shut by police, doctors were not allowed to cross inter-state borders and e-commerce delivery staff were beaten up even as their warehouses were forced to down shutters.
By evening, MHA had added more exemptions to its prohibitory orders and written to Central Association of Private Security Industry among others to not lay off security guards.
On March 26, MHA again issued a clarification that its guidelines included exemptions for “animal feed and fodder” and acknowledged that some states were not allowing the same.
On the same day, Delhi police released a long list of e-commerce platforms issuing orders to allow their movement only to withdraw it within hours.
On March 27, it issued another addendum to its guidelines. This time it added among essentials various farming-related goods and services.
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