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Gig Economy Workers Face Physical Abuse In Urban Spaces: 5 Incidents

We look back at a few recent incidents where delivery agents have been thrashed, and abused by people during their duty.

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Zomato food delivery rider on his way to deliver an order
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It has been weeks, and Blinkit delivery boys continue their protests following the changes in their pay structure. The Zomato-owned delivery company recently slashed its minimum payment per delivery from Rs 25 to Rs 15 this year instead of Rs 50 last year. According to media reports, the new change has affected the daily earnings of the workers from nearly Rs 1,200 per day to Rs 600-700 per day. And before Blinkit, workers associated with Ola, Uber, Swiggy, Zomato and so on, have held similar protests last year. The security of gig workers is at risk, with changing revenues at the mercy of larger forces. 

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Further, gig workers are also exploited in urban spaces where they are often physically and verbally abused over late deliveries or not fitting into a set status. Over the years, headlines have screamed several such incidents, where gig workers have been victims of undignified behaviours from people with no redressal from their organisation. 

Here, we look back at a few recent incidents where delivery agents have been thrashed, and abused by people in urban spaces. 

1. Zomato delivery executive who was suspended in Bengaluru 

In 2021, a case in Bengaluru went viral after a make-up artist named Hitesha took to social media to complain against a Zomato delivery man, Kamraj, who allegedly punched her hard. Hitesha, who recorded herself breaking down with a bleeding nose said that Kamraj was late in delivering the order and when she refused to receive the order, he hit her and ran away with the food. 

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Kamraj was soon suspended following the viral video. However, according to Kamraj, the situation was spun the other way. Kamraj said that while he was late delivering the order because of Bangalore’s infamous road traffic, the woman started hitting him with slippers and started calling him names. In his defence, when he tried to shield himself with his hand, during the blow, the woman accidentally hit her nose with her ring which caused the bleeding. 

However, on further investigation, the police admitted Hitesha’s ordeal to be true and decidedly stopped the probe. 

2. Zomato delivery agent attacked on Holi

On Holi, this year, a Muslim delivery executive from Zomato was attacked by four men who were under the influence of a substance. Ambran Tamboli, who went to deliver food in Bajrang Nagar, Nashik, claimed that he was attacked because of his religion. He said that there was no conversation whatsoever that could have triggered any fight. 

“We did not even have a discussion which could have possibly aggravated the situation; they suddenly came and started attacking,” he said, according to a report by Indian Express. After the incident, the Zomato team leader took him to the hospital and the same evening, he went to the police station to lodge a complaint. 

Although the police booked the assailants under Sections 323 and 324 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code, they claimed that the incident had no communal angle.

3. Woman beats delivery man

In another incident last year, a Zomato delivery boy was seen being hit with slippers by a woman for no specific reason whatsoever. The video that went viral showed a woman hitting the man over and over. The incident was reported by a certain filmmaker, Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj, on Twitter who sought a probe into the incident. 

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Soon, it was revealed that the delivery boy took the order to the wrong customer, who was the woman in the video, and asked her to verify the same by tallying the food bill. According to the agent, the woman started hitting him following this minor issue. 

While the video went viral, the customer, who had placed the order, took to Twitter to say that his food was delivered to the wrong location. However, when he saw the video he reached out to customer cares seeking help for the delivery agent who was assaulted. But, no help was provided. 

4. Delivery boys die during duty

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Following the death of a Zomato worker in Indore, Madhya Pradesh and a Swiggy delivery agent in Hyderabad,  the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT) and the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union (TGPWU) reached out to the companies demanding that the kin of deceased be compensated. 

Sunil Kumar, who delivered his order in Indore at 10:30pm allegedly waylaid, robbed of money and stabbed by three men. IFAT demanded that a sum of Rs 50 lakhs be given to the family and accused Zomato of failing to address the issue with the police besides not meeting the family of the victim. 

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A day after Kumar’s murder, 24-year-old Swiggy worker Adil Ahmed was hit by a truck on the roads of Hyderabad following which TGPWU tweeted about the death. At the time, Swiggy had responded to the tweet on the social media platform via a link stating “We [Swiggy officials] are processing an insurance grant of 10 lakhs and have covered the medical expenses.”

5. Drunk men beat delivery man

In January, early this year, a 22-year-old Zomato delivery agent was thrashed by two drunk men in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore. The video of the incident soon went viral online. 

According to the police, Thirumalai Vaasan was returning from Vadakumedu in Katpaadi after food delivery when the two accused, who were drunk and riding bike, rammed on to Vaasan's bike. When Vassan questioned them, the accused Parthiban and Tanikachalam attacked him. The incident was filmed by one of the passersby.

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The brawl left Vaasan critically who was then admitted to the district hospital. 

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