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On day 2 of lockdown, essential goods’ supply better, but deficit raises prices

On Thursday, Day 2 of the 21-day lockdown, the supply of essential goods was better than on Wednesday, although there were complaints of shortage of medicines, milk, vegetables and also a spurt in the prices of essential food items because of supply constraints.

The police continued to arrest and book people who came out in violation of the lockdown regulations.

While Amul (The Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation) and Mother Dairy, in separate statements, said their supply was at par with normal days at most locations, smaller dairy companies expressed apprehension of disruption in supply if the shortage of raw material and workers continued in the absence of curfew passes.

Milk supply in cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Patna and Lucknow may get affected as supply from villages has fallen. Local district officials said instructions were being issued to police to allow vehicles carrying milk from villages to local milk collection centres.

“As per our information, the milk supply from villages was less today and we have only seven days stock of coal needed for processing of milk. If the situation continues, it will be difficult to supply milk to cities,” said DV Ghanekar, managing director of Gokul Milk, which supplies a million liters of milk to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region every day.

In cities such as Delhi, Dehradun and Mumbai, the Agriculture Produce Market Committee wholesale market started full operations on Thursday, albeit with reduced inflows of fruits and vegetables. There were also very few workers to unload the few trucks that arrived.

Vishal Sethia, a wholesale pulse trader in Mumbai said, “There is panic and many of the labourers have left for their villages. Only one-sixth of the workforce I have reported for work today.”

In Delhi’s Azadpur wholesale fruit and vegetable market, more trucks arrived (than on Wednesday) although the offtake was not high because of mobility restrictions for fruit and vegetable vendors, said commission agents at the market.

In Goa, there was no supply of milk and bread because of a complete lockdown.

Chief minister Pramod Sawant’s plan to home-deliver food, including milk, proved to a non-starter. For Panaji, having population of 150,000, there are only three phone numbers listed for home delivery of milk.

“I am also attentive to the fact that people are not getting things on time. We will take about two days to put systems in place,” Sawant said. However, residents have approached Bombay high court at Goa seeking directions to the state government to ensure supply of essential goods.

In Punjab and Chandigarh, the administration reported that they have received requests for curfew passes for calling a barber to home, to take dogs for morning walks, and from VIPs seeking curfew passes for their gunmen and cooks. The Punjab government, in a statement, said most of the essential goods were being supplied adequately.

In Odisha, the main vegetable market of Bhubaneswar, which operates in a congested space, was relocated to a thoroughfare with traders and shoppers asked to line up while maintaining distance. The state police also started a helpline for goods truck drivers carrying essential goods in case they faced problems.

In Uttarkand, the state government started home delivery of food and medicines for senior citizens and students, who live alone. The government also announced that it would soon notify regulations to penalise shopkeepers hoarding essential items as complaints of price spikes were reported from various parts of the state. The state also issued orders that all essential goods also be sold in fair price shops. The state government also assured people that they have stock of pulses and cereals for three months.

In Jharkhand and Bihar, people faced problems in getting cooking gas cylinders and there was rush at the local cylinder distribution centres. In order to prevent chaos, the two state governments announced doorstep delivery of LPG gas cylinders. The Ranchi administration also issued phone numbers and mobile applications for doorstep delivery of ration and vegetables.

In Assam, one of the very few states not to report any Covid-19 positive case, the state government has set up a 1,000-bed quarantine facility at Sausajai stadium in Guwahati; a similar one in another stadium within the city is also planned.The government has also taken on rent an apartment complex near the quarantine facility where nearly 200 doctors can stay. It will become operational within the next few days. Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said there was no shortage of essential goods in the state.

The Confederation of Indian Industryin a letter to the consumer affairs ministry has said that there is ambiguity in the lockdown orders issued by various local authorities, with the term grocery not clearly defined, resulting in short supply of items such as floor cleaners and toiletries and oral hygiene products such as tooth paste and toothbrushes.

“As you know that at present personal and home hygiene has become extremely important to fight the Covid 19 Virus,” the letter said, seeking necessary clarification to the states from the government.

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