Corona outbreak: Lockdown to hit essential supplies?Updated: Mar 24, 2020 00:47 IST
Despite reiterations from the state that essential goods will be available during the statewide lockdown to curb coronavirus outbreak, Mumbai’s supply, distribution, and retailing of essential goods such as vegetables, groceries, and medicines has run into multiple hurdles. While this could make buying essential commodities and groceries tough in the coming days, the government has promised to intervene if such a situation arises.
The traders of Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) market in Navi Mumbai have announced a shutdown between March 25 and March 31, citing threat from large number of retailers, who gather at the market every morning. The fruit market traders shut their market on Monday, while the vegetable market has planned closure from March 25. The onion-potato market is shut till March 25, but it is likely to get extended to March 31.
While APMC director Sanjay Pansare appealed to residents of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region to stock up on vegetables for at least one week, APMC vegetable market director Shankar Pingle said: “We have decided to shut the vegetable market from March 25 to 31. The daily wage labourers have told us that they will not work for now. Around 20,000 people come to our vegetable market every day and the area becomes highly prone to contracting the coronavirus.”
On the likelihood of supplies being affected, he said, “We have a lot of stock from Saturday that was not sold. More stock will arrive today and around 1200 to 1300 vehicles are expected on Tuesday.”
Balasaheb Patil, state co-operation minister, said, “APMC cannot be closed at any cost, as it is an essential service provider. There is a government circular on this. For crowd control inside APMC, only three people will be allowed in – vendors purchasing goods, farmers, and distributors or transporters. Everyone will have to wear masks, use sanitisers.” Patil also clarified the ministry has conveyed to the home ministry to ask policemen not to hinder their movement in the city. Ramdas Pawle, a trader, said, “There will be shortage of vegetables in a few days as it is a perishable commodity.”
The shutdown of local train and bus services has hit the supply chain of even essential services and goods despite the provisions made by the civic body. For instance, after BEST bus services and local train services were stopped in Mumbai on Sunday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) issued a circular starting special state buses and BEST bus services to ease commute for policemen, medical staff, and essential service providers. The circular clarified that employees of grocery stores, medical stores, who do not have government issued identification can avail of on these services by making verbal declaration of their employment. However, on Monday, several service providers found it difficult to use these services. A co-owner of a pharmaceutical company told Hindustan Times, “One of the partner in my spouse’s firm tried to avail MSRTC bus service to go to work from Kalyan to Thane, and he was not allowed, despite showing his licence. The firm supplies injections to hospitals in Thane for critical patients in the ICU.”
Viren Shah, president of the federation of retail traders welfare association, said, “The government needs to clarify how will distribution of essential items work, and how employees of such stores will get to work. After a few days, provision stores will not be able to sustain because commute is not available.” A senior state official from the food and civic supplies ministry said, “If any essential service provider is finding it difficult to commute, we will write to the home ministry again on Tuesday, ensuring such persons are not stopped at checkpoints.”
Industries minister Subhash Desai stressed the need to promote e-commerce, and ensure all raw material used in bakery, fuel and petrol needed for commute will be available.