New Delhi, April 22, 2021
While the Government is considering coming out with a clear definition of ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ supplies made by e-commerce companies due to inconsistent approach adopted by state governments, CUTS International has already written to all Chief Minsters and Lt. Governors of States and Union Territories requesting them to facilitate e-commerce to meet the dynamic consumer needs and also for economic recovery.
“As e-commerce being contactless in nature, the same may be allowed to supply all items without being bound by ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential classification’,” argues Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International.
It has now been established that in pandemic lockdowns, e-commerce as a mode of commercial activities, is not only a boon to consumers and online suppliers, but is also instrumental in economic recovery including contributing to the much needed government revenue.
Thus, Mehta suggests to “carve out e-commerce from the restraints so that consumer needs are met without a risk to their health, and that small businesses are able to participate in the economy thus protecting jobs”.
Consumers and sellers extensively used e-commerce or other online modes to fulfil the needs of one another during the last year’s pandemic lockdown. They contributed positively to public health by going online without wandering outside and creating crowds. Thus they aided the government’s efforts in containing the spread of the virus by largely being contactless.
Further, online businesses, including e-commerce, are also important from an economic recovery point of view, including retaining jobs as well as contributing to the fast shrinking government revenue. Thus e-commerce, not only assumes much importance, but is also an essential service in itself.
“Since, the second wave seems to be even more severe than the first – the infection rate is much faster, even affecting youths – the essentiality of e-commerce needs to be kept in mind while making any policy decisions”, quips Mehta.
He adds that “e-commerce itself may be treated as an essential service and that the delivery boys need to be prioritised for vaccination”.
On the last year’s decision of keeping etailers confined within the purview of ‘essential items’in order to retain the so-called ‘level playing field’ between brick n mortar and e-commerce business, Mehta feels that “this was a flawed decision, since allowing e-commerce in even non-essentials could have contributed to economic recovery, saved more jobs and above all could have added to government revenue”.
It also goes with the cautious approach adopted by the governmentsthis year being sensitive towards livelihoods in announcing complete lockdowns, unlike last year.
More so, consumer needs are dynamic in nature, which have implications on classification like ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’.
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