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Add more items to key list of essential goods: Retailers

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Retailers have sought inclusion of more items in the list of essential goods that consumers should be allowed during the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. During a meeting with a panel of secretaries last week, several players flagged the concern, arguing that for most households, the list of essentials during the second week of the lockdown is different from what was during the initial days when consumers were scurrying around to stock up on food products, milk, medicines, fruits and vegetables.

As things settled down, and households were assured that these products were easily available, other issues started coming up. For instance, the work-from-home routine has meant that several bachelors, who relied on food from outside, had to look for utensils. “An induction cooker, or even a pressure cooker, may be an essential for some people, which they are only realising now,” said a retailer present in the meeting.

Besides, with parents working from home and children attending online classes, there is sudden pressure on laptops, tablets and large-screen phones. “On most days you need four screens simultaneously, and there is no way you can add more at the moment,” said an executive with an e-tailer.

Besides, there is a large replacement market with phones or laptops needing to be changed, resulting in a pitch for allowing basic or low-value electronic goods sales to be included in the list of ‘essential items’, something that the government is yet to take a call on. Government sources, however, said the issue of repair of computers, routers or fixing software glitches at a time when going completely digital has worked has also come up during discussions.

“Such services are required across government departments and private sector. But this may not require opening of shops or outlets. The service providers can attend to complaints or request for fixing problems. The number of exemptions during lockdown has expanded after issues have been flagged,” said a source. He added without allowing these service providers, ensuring seamless operations will be difficult and the government is aware about the issues. While the government has dedicated the department of NIC under the IT ministry, many private entities engaged in essential services may not have in-house capacity to deal with technical exigencies. Countries such as Italy have included repairs as exempted services during the lockdown.


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