Administrations promising home delivery is the right step to curb panic, govt should tie-up with private initiatives.
Even before the PM’s televised announcement of the nation-wide lockdown ended, people were making a beeline for the stores, to “stock up”, fearing essentials won’t be available or accessible for the next 21 days. While the PM’s handle tweeted, within minutes of the speech, that essentials would be available, and there was no need to panic, the reassurance should have been part of the speech itself. That said, complete or partial lockdowns have been in place in many states, and there is a need to allay fears. To this end, the home delivery of essentials announced by Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Delhi is commendable. Fearing queues at shops, which would defeat the purpose of lockdowns and social distancing, the three states have announced that they will deliver essential services at the doorstep. Details of how this shall happen are not clear yet—it would require some ingenuity on the part of states given the slim workforce—but were this to happen efficiently, it should prove a model for other states to follow.
States can always rope in a BigBasket, or a Grofers for deliveries, but they can also enrol people who have been rendered jobless by the lockdown, or vegetable vendors, who are already allowed to operate for a specific period. With more states doing so, the government can aggregate services in a locality. It will have to do this for PDS delivery as well, if it is to avoid people congregating at one place. The crisis may end up creating more avenues for efficient administration, and even give a fillip to digital payments.