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Covid-19 lockdown: Groceries at the doorstep in a small town in Arunachal Pradesh

In Hayuliang, located in the easternmost part of India, the local administration has started a ‘Market on Wheel’ service to ensure that no one has to step out for essential supplies

 A new ‘Market on Wheel’ home delivery service in a small town in Arunachal Pradesh.
A new ‘Market on Wheel’ home delivery service in a small town in Arunachal Pradesh.

Residents of Hayuliang, a town located in the Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh, were in for a pleasant surprise on Thursday morning. They received a message from their local administration about a new ‘Market on Wheel’ home delivery service, which promised to deliver groceries to their doorstep.

All they needed to do was WhatsApp or message their list to a list of numbers and the administration would liaise with the local grocers and deliver it to the households in a special vehicle. This mobile market, of sorts, has served to alleviate worries of the 8,000-9,000 residents of this sparsely populated town, which lies in the easternmost part of the country, right on the China border.

A. Kalam, a teacher at the Government Higher Secondary School, had run out of milk for his seven-year-old child on the day following the announcement of a nation-wide lockdown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “There were no lentils in the house either. Even though the market is close by, I didn’t want to step out to defy the lockdown," says the 42-year-old. It is with this niggling worry at the back of his mind that Kalam set about his household chores on Thursday morning. “When I checked my messages, I found that so many of my friends had forwarded the Market on Wheel information to me," he says.

Kalam immediately called the listed number, and was asked to message his requirements. “I sent a list but didn’t believe that the groceries would actually turn up," he adds.

However, he was amazed to find the vehicle at his doorstep within an hour with all the groceries he had asked for. And this order made Kalam the very first customer of this service, which started on the morning of 26 March.

“We had a quick meeting with the various teams from the revenue and health departments, and also with the police to work out the modalities after the lockdown was announced," says Ayushi Sudan, additional deputy commissioner, Hayuliang. The service aims to reduce

the footprint to the shops and to instill trust in the local administration. The only requirement is that the residents’ order be greater than 300, with an additional delivery charge of 10.

From now on, the Market on Wheel will ply between 9 am and 5 pm not just in Hayuliang but in the Khupa and Zero areas located on the outskirts, with tie-ups with 13 grocery stores in and around the town. “We are now expanding to include vegetables as well by tapping into the stock of three self-help groups. Efforts are being made to add pharmacies to the service as well," says Sudan. The Market on Wheel service will also help the administration identify the essential needs of the people and keep a buffer stock through its primary supply chain originating from Tinsukia, Assam.

Meanwhile, customers like Kalam are a happy lot. “I think all local administrations should follow this model and make life easier for their residents," he says.

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