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The latest guidelines issued by the Delhi government on movement of goods—that bar inter-and-intra state movement of non-essential goods have rattled e-commerce firms and large retailers.

On Monday, Delhi moved to a six-day long curfew while permitting only delivery of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment through e-commerce as well as through stores.

Moreover, the state has only permitted inter and intra state movement of essentials. “There shall be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement / transportation of essential goods. No separate permission / e-pass will be required for such movements," the Delhi government said in a fresh order Monday.

Companies and trade bodies said the move could lead to logistical issues, delay in fulfilment of orders emerging from neighbouring states and burden warehousing capacities.

Maharashtra that went into a curfew before Delhi, has only permitted fulfilment of essential goods and services via e-commerce. Trade bodies have appealed to the Maharashtra state government to permit home delivery of non-food categories such as clothing, personal care products, baby products, electrical and hardware items, kitchen goods.

Online retailer Amazon on Monday requested the Delhi Government to allow delivery and inter and intra state movement of all products.

“Currently, we are enabling deliveries of essential products in line with new guidelines set by the Government. However, we have learnt from customers over the last one year that urgent needs vary across households and it is challenging to define a static essentials list. We request the Delhi Government to allow delivery and inter and intra state movement of all products to enable people to maintain social distancing norms. E-commerce is the safest way to serve consumers’ needs while supporting livelihoods of lakhs of small & medium businesses including the local shops," an Amazon India spokesperson said.

Companies are asking the government to expand its scope of non-essentials. The classification of essentials is vague, said Arvind Mediratta, managing director and CEO, Metro Cash and Carry India. “We have been making representations to government to expand the list of non-essentials. For example in summers, items like fans, coolers, AC are essentials," he said.

Moreover, online commerce firms said the move could lead to delay in orders and disrupt their logistics in parts of north India.

“Delhi government not allowing the intra and inter-city movement of non-essentials can cause a delay in orders and logistic disruptions for online deliveries in North India including neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and others. While delays can be managed for a week, since customers understand the situation, but any further extension of ban on non-essential movements can cause large-scale logistical disruptions," said the first e-commerce executive who didn’t want to be named.

The restriction of inter-city and intra-city movement of non-essentials is expected to put additional pressure on existing logistics infrastructure and warehouses in the union territory, as non-essential shipments, already in transit, get held up. Managing payments for orders already in transit could pose further challenges, said others.

The decision of not allowing inter and intra-city movement of non-essentials will cause additional pressure for the logistics industry, since they can hold only a certain amount of shipment units in their warehouses. "Sellers may also refuse to take back returns owing to covid," said a second executive of an e-commerce firm who spoke to Mint on condition of anonymity.

The executives said that e-commerce firms are expected to make a representation through trade bodies Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), this week urging the Delhi government to allow the transit of non-essentials.

E-commerce firms also met the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) last week to discuss and seek guidance on issues related to allowing the movement of non-essentials. “E-commerce firms asked DPIIT to look into the clarification of essential and non-essential goods and requested authorities to not take such a discriminatory stance. Further, firms discussed that states coming with different guidelines could affect operations for e-commerce firms on ground," said one of the executives quoted above.

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