The government on Saturday clarified that e-commerce players such as Flipkart and Amazon will be allowed to sell only essential goods on their platforms even as offline stores selling non-essentials items would be allowed to begin operations.

The move was announced through a press release issuing clarification to the Ministry of Home Affairs order dated April 24 which allowed functioning of all offline stores, except those in malls in rural areas, and those in markets and malls in urban areas.

“It is clarified that sale by e-commerce companies will continue to be permitted for essential goods only,” the clarification note read.

The MHA order on April 24 stated that all shops registered under the Shops and Establishments Act would be allowed to function with 50% staff strength, following all precautions such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

Executives from online retailers to said that the move would create a non-level playing field between online and offline commerce in the country. “What about maintaining a level playing field? This order is clearly biased,” said an executive on condition of anonymity.

The announcement comes after the government had allowed e-commerce firms to sell all products in an April 15 order, which was reversed on April 19, a day before it was to come into force.

Offline trade associations such as the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch had lauded the move saying it maintained a level playing field between offline and online businesses.

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