New Delhi: Amid concerns over availability of essential supplies and services after Prime Minister Narendra Modi decreed a 21-day nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on Tuesday said the government has taken all steps to ensure that supply chain of basic need goods is not broken.
Speaking to CNN-News18, Kant said the home ministry guidelines on what all essential services will remain operational during the lockdown were absolutely clear in an appeal to people not to panic.
“I have spoken personally to chief secretaries of states to make sure supply chain of essentials is not broken. We will keep speaking to district administrations to ensure basic needs like milk, food are provided to citizens,” he said.
The Prime Minister, while announcing the lockdown, did not make clear how people would get food, water and other necessities during these three weeks.
Soon after the televised address, crowds had quickly mobbed stores in Delhi and other cities in a scramble for supplies. Shops in several cities had also shut down, fearing action by the police amid confusion over what can stay open. The Home Ministry then issued a statement after Modi spoke saying that food shops, banks, gas stations and some other essential services would be exempt from the lockdown.
The NITI Aayog CEO admitted that initially there was a lack of clarity, but said that the guidelines now are very clear that grocery stores and e-commerce will continue to operate.
E-commerce deliveries stopped on Wednesday as the likes of Flipkart, Grofers and Big Basket have shut shop. While Amazon is still offering what it claims are essential items, chances are you won’t get them either as delivery dates have been pushed back several days and many orders are being cancelled.
“I have no doubt in mind that the situation will improve and day-to-day essentials will be provided to citizens,” Kant told CNN-News18, adding that warehouses and cold storages will be allowed to function so that supply chain is not broken.
Despite the assurances, there have been reports of long queues on highways of trucks carrying essential goods and commodities, including medicines, milk, fruits and vegetables. Confusion at the lower levels about exemptions has also led to freight trains getting stuck even though goods trains are in exempt category.