Food delivery platforms Swiggy and Zomato were forced to suspend their operations in Hyderabad on Saturday after police cracked down on delivery executives in an unprecedented manner in a bid to enforce strict lockdown measures.
Beginning on Saturday morning till the evening, the Hyderabad police stopped Swiggy and Zomato delivery executives from going about their job. These executives were also fined and the police seized many bikes. The police in Hyderabad operates out of across three commissionerates: Hyderabad, Cyberabad and Rachakonda. Videos circulated on social media platforms also showed cops lathi-charging a person wearing a Zomato T-shirt.
This crackdown by the city’s police departments have taken despite the Telangana government issuing an order, on May 12, allowing e-commerce delivery of foods, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment during the newly imposed lockdown in the state.
Following a huge outcry on various media platforms, the government intervened in the matter and police assured that e-commerce food deliveries will not be stopped. Speaking to Telugu news channel NTV, Rachakonda police commissioner Mahesh Bhagwat said, “Permission is there for e-commerce food delivery. However, some were misusing the T-shirts of Swiggy and Zomato to roam around. These checks were started after we found a few people impersonating delivery persons.”
Held a review meeting with 3 commissioners of police, regd, the several requests flagged with 'Disruption of essential services including food deliveries etc,.@eCommerce,while tightening of LockDownToday'.
Directed to ensure a seamless supply ahead,while executing #StrictLockdown pic.twitter.com/OQiRouBRnr
— DGP TELANGANA POLICE (@TelanganaDGP) May 22, 2021
A Zomato spokesperson told Medianama, “We paused our operations on Saturday for the safety of our delivery partners and to seek clarity from the authorities. We now continue to operate through the day, and are reimbursing our delivery partners for the fines levied on that day.”
Despite the assurances, Zomato and Swiggy on Sunday and Monday operated “with limited options for food and other essential deliveries basis local directives”. Many delivery executives unsure of what was transpiring on the ground, chose not to report for work until Sunday evening.
Delivery executives also fined by platforms
On Saturday, some delivery executives were not just fined by the police, but also by their platform. Arshad Aziz, a Zomato delivery executive based in Malakpet, ventured out for work on Saturday morning. Like others, Aziz too was stopped by the police. As a result, his pending order could not be delivered.
“I was fined Rs 1493 by Zomato for not being able to deliver the food package,” Aziz told MediaNama. Aziz earns around Rs 4,000 per week, and this was a significant blow for his family of four — wife and three children. Others faced a similar situation.
Responding to similar incidences of fines by platforms on Twitter, Zomato Care, the official Zomato support page on Twitter said that its team will be reversing all cancellation and rejection penalties incurred on Saturday due to operational issues on the ground. Since then Aziz was refunded the Rs 1493 sum deducted from his weekly payout.
Hi Muhammed, please be assured our teams will be reversing all cancellation and rejection penalties incurred today due to the operational issues on-ground.
— zomato care (@zomatocare) May 23, 2021
What about penalties levied by police?
However, there is still no clarity on whether the Rs 1,000 fine levied by the police on delivery executives for allegedly violating lockdown protocols, will be refunded. Shaik Salauddin, the national general secretary of the Indian Federation of App-Based Transport Workers urged the platforms to “sort out the issue of the penalty with police officials and get their penalty waived”.
In a series of tweets that were attached with videos of Zomato delivery executives complaining about their plight on Saturday, Salauddin wrote,”..all rules were being followed. Delivery workers cannot afford to bear the cost of the heft penalty? The bikes are used to deliver orders for your customers. Please help them get their bikes to get back so that they can serve your customers.”
Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union also issued a statement in this regard and said, “The companies should be made to block their apps if there is a ban on providing these services in Hyderabad, why are delivery agents and drivers being harassed and are being fined?”
Dear Sir @TelanganaDGP FOR URGENT INTERVENTION!!! Kindly release the seized vehicles, waive challans and please take necessary action on companies and not on poor drivers and delivery workers.
Copy to: @mahmoodalitrs @asadowaisi @kishanreddybjp @CPHydCity @cpcybd @RachakondaCop https://t.co/maiK8EjPFB pic.twitter.com/uE6r6Y6tN6
— Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union (@TGPWU) May 22, 2021