Shops and supermarkets are shuttered since the beginning on nationwide lockdown of March 24. Thoroughfares selling vegetable and daily eatables are also closed. Fast food outlets and mobile carts are non-existent. Only medicinal shops are functioning in Itahari. In addition, buying medicines require herculean tasks of obtaining travel pass and frequent police inquires on the way to the medical outlets. Commoners are not ease at this hour of strict lockdown in Itahari. However, some youths in Itahari have devised a supportive plan to give way out for these woes.
Starting from early May, seven youths of Itahari have come up with online shop with home-delivery facilities. They deliver food items, fast food, meat and medicines. ''We don't charge extra amount for home-delivery of daily food and kitchen items, meat, and medicines'', informed Samrat Thapa, the co-ordinator of 'Sahayogi Pasal' which roughly translates as 'supportive shop', ''But, we take extra charge for fast-food as it is not compulsory for commoners.'' Thapa said they import from wholesalers and deliver to consumers. ''For the time being, this is targeted only for lockdown period'', informed Thapa.
Conceptualized by Saroj Raut of IT Soch, the Sahayogi Pasal supporters included Prithvi Parajuli, Prajwal Parajuli, Jiten Thapa, Sujan Ghimire, Rijan Regmi, Milan Karki, among others. They deliver around Itahari based on telephone inquiries and from online orders via their official website sahayogipasal.com. Thapa said normal price of delivered food and vegetables items are similar to market price.
''We deliver with all necessary safety and security'', shared Thapa. He added, ''Our delivery boys are equipped with protective gowns. They frequently use sanitizers and strictly maintain WHO- prescribed physical distance in their delivery.'' Thapa said they have been delivering for around 50 households in Itahari. ''We ceased our services since yesterday as Itahari has sealed off ward number 2 and 3'', shared Thapa adding they would resume their service after the end of this local government-announced restrictions.
Support of locals and local government but not of police officials
Sahayogi Pasal is first of its kind home delivery only shop in the town. Though successfully run in both state capital Biratnagar and national capital Kathmandu, Itahari is not used to this innovative home delivery shop, said operators of this pioneer venture in Itahari. However, within short timeframe locals are increasingly turning to online orders.
''In the early days of our venture, we thought this service would be limited around our friend and family circles'', said Thapa, ''Interesting, orders are coming in from various unknown locals and locations of Itahari.'' Thapa said youths and adults with smart phones and high-speed internet connectivity are their primary clients. Divyaraj Gurung, a local of Itahari-6 and a new client of online shop agreed with Thapa.
''I was not habitual to going online shop'', said Gurung over phone, ''This lockdown gave me enough leisure time and I tried advertised online shopping and it turned out to be very good.''
Besides locals, local government has also been visibly supportive to this new business in the Sub-Metropolitan City.
''We are bestowed with all necessary supports by local government. They have issued travel pass to us'', said Rijan Regmi, a member of delivery team. He continued, ''But, the problem is that we are occasionally obstructed by local police officials.''
Samrat Thapa said there are multiple instances when police officials force them to run vegetable and food item shop instead of making home delivery. He added, ''They brand our start-up innovation as a drama which is not a good remark by security officials both on moral and logical grounds as we are serving people in times of crisis and we are not only doing this. This is being run in Biratnagar and Kathmandu.'' Thapa said their counterparts in Biratnagar and Kathmandu have not faced such an obstacle like in Itahari.
Divyaraj Gurung, a local client of this innovative venture who frequently orders his items, said it was not good to harass innovative youth working during pandemic time. ''It is not bad to make home delivery at a time when people cannot stream out of their home easily for shopping'', said Gurung, adding, ''They must be encouraged and supported for risking their health for greater good of the general public.''
Demand of a separate quarantine hall for delivery boys
Samrat Thapa said his team is of the view to make an isolated quarantine center or an isolation hall for their working team. ''Despite our continued safety and security measures to make home delivery of our items family members suspect us'', said Thapa, ''For their comfort and psychological satisfaction, we are urging local government for arranging separate quarantine or an isolation room.''
Thapa said after the proper arrangement of quarantine center or an isolation hall, they would also go though periodic medical check-ups of their team members. ''The Polymerase Chain Reaction and Rapid Diagnostic Tests can be easily conducted from such areas'', shared Thapa. He further added, ''We have already arranged necessary mobile applications and thermal guns to gauge our body temperature. PCR and RDT would be far better.''