NEW DELHI: Ahead of extending restrictions on the mobility of goods and persons, the government plans to set up a chain of 20 lakh retail shops called 'Suraksha Stores' across India which will provide daily essentials to citizens while maintaining stringent safety norms.
The Suraksha Stores initiative will convert the neighbourhood Kirana stores into sanitised retail outlets selling daily essentials while adhering to safety norms such as social distancing and sanitisation to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, sources with direct knowledge of the development said.
The government will rope in private firms to implement this plan, which seeks to ensure that proper protocol is followed in the entire supply chain, right from manufacturing units to retail outlets, to combat COVID-19.
Consumer Affairs Secretary Pawan Kumar Agarwal has held at least one round of discussions with the top FMCG companies to implement this ambitious plan through public-private partnership, the sources said.
The government is targeting to earmark 20 lakh retail outlets as 'Suraksha Stores' over the next 45 days.
Each FMCG company might be given one or two states to execute this plan in an effective manner and enable every store to fight coronavirus.
When contacted, Agarwal said the government is "working" on the 'Suraksha Store' plan but declined to share any detail.
To become a 'Suraksha Store', a retail store will have to comply with a health and safety checklist, which includes social distancing of 1.5 metres outside the shop as well as billing counters, use of sanitiser or handwash by consumers before entering shops, provision of masks to all staff and sanitisation of high touch areas twice a day.
The 'Suraksha Store' will not only be for groceries but also consumer durables, apparel and salons.
A top official at a leading FMCG firm confirmed the development.
"The government is planning to create Suraksha Store and Suraksha Circle to ensure hygiene and safety norms across the supply chain.
More than 50 top FMCG companies have been approached.
We are with the government and we have already given our approval to actively participate in this exercise," said the official, who wished not to be identified.
FMCG companies will be asked to provide training and mobilise health kits (masks, gloves and sanitisers) to enable retail outlets to become 'Suraksha Stores', the official said, adding that big industries would similarly help wholesalers and other smaller units.
As per the plan, each retail outlet will have to prominently display that it is a 'Suraksha Store' to customers.
Educational posters related to hygiene and safety should also be displayed in the store.
Similarly, the Consumer Affairs Ministry is working on creating 'Suraksha Circle' where lead manufacturing plants will help their business partners and smaller factories in their vicinity in order to ensure a safe environment across the product supply chain.
Each lead manufacturing plant is expected to adopt 10 SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and one village in order to achieve the target to bring 50,000 SMEs and 5,000 communities under Suraksha Circle.
According to the plan, an online training certification programme will be created for Suraksha Stores and Suraksha Circle to ensure awareness about COVID-19 protocols for the supply of essential commodities as per the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).