Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, has requested all state governments to include IT and BPO employees, as well as e-commerce, in their list of essential services.
Several state governments, including Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, have announced strict curbs on the movement of people and the functioning of shops and offices to curb the spread of Coronavirus COVID-19.
While doing so, state governments have allowed offices of ‘essential services’ — such as hospitals, news media, food, banks and electricity — to remain open and their staff to move about.
Other services, including shops selling items like clothes and appliances, have been ordered to be shut and their staff told to remain home.
Some states, including Kerala, have also banned the movement of people in groups of more than two in public transport — including in corporate buses, vans and cars.
Several IT and BPO companies have found it difficult to continue to serve their overseas clients due to such restrictions on the functioning of their offices as well as the movement of their staff.
Keeping this in mind, the central government today issued a memorandum to state governments, pointing out that IT and IT-enabled industry often plays a crucial role in the fulfillment of several essential services, and that these services — whether in India or abroad — cannot be carried out if the staff are not allowed to work.
“Some of the state governments like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana have notified the essential nature of IT-ITES industry in their policy itself, with suitable enabling provisions in their respective Essential Services Maintenance Acts,” said the central ministry in an office memorandum issued to state governments today.
The memorandum pointed out that the center has also allowed relaxation in the conditions attached to certain licenses like tele-medicine, e-commerce and so on so that the staff can work from home.
“However, in view of the lockdown [by the states], certain IT/ITES services are being hampered,” it said. “The ministry has received representations/suggestions from various IT/ITES industry associations requesting to bring about uniformity across India.”
EXEMPTION TO STAFF
In order to facilitate the functioning of this sector — crucial to balance India’s foreign exchange position — the ministry urged all state governments to allow employees who are certified as ‘mission critical’ and associated with ‘essential services’ by the top management of the company to work from their offices.
It also requested that, even for employees who want to work from home, a window of three days be given for them to shift equipment from their offices to their homes. During this period, they should be allowed to move the equipment without being stopped by the police.
Finally, the ministry also asked state governments to consider e-commerce as an essential service.
Given that governments have ordered ‘non-essential’ shops to close, people have no option but to order items such as clothes, hardware, electronics and so on from online retailers such as Flipkart and Amazon.
However, many delivery boys and vehicles of e-commerce companies have been stopped by police personnel.
The center said there was no need to stop the operations of e-commerce companies.
Governments should permit “e-commerce services (delivery, warehouse operations, shipping and logistics) on the basis of evidence like copy of orders, way bills, invoices etc, particularly in respect of essential items,” it said.