Frantic calls, bad roads, fast orders: How delivery partners risk their lives for your food

Accidents, trouble with the traffic police, scolding from customers – these are the common troubles the delivery partners face every day.

By Sumit Jha  Published on  14 March 2022 3:11 PM GMT
Frantic calls, bad roads, fast orders: How delivery partners risk their lives for your food

Hyderabad: On the night of 12 March, Amar Rabha, 34, a Swiggy food delivery partner left his room at Anjaiah Nagar in Gachibowli on his TVS Zest Scooter to meet his cousin Jaharlal Rabha, a security guard. Jaharlal and Amar had dinner and the latter left for his food delivery job.

Since it was a Saturday night, he was expecting more work and also good compensation. However, on Sunday morning Jaharlal heard from his brother's roommate, Bukal Boro, that Amar had an accident and was admitted to Area Hospital, Kondapur.

When Jaharlal reached the hospital, Amar was already declared dead. "At about 4:40 a.m, when he was going from Gopanpally to Nallagandla, Amar met with an accident. His scooter skidded and he fell down. Passers-by shifted him to Kondapur Governemnt Area Hospital with the help of 108 ambulance. I immediately rushed to the hospital. The duty doctors declared him brought dead," said Jaharlal.

Amar Rabha

Amar is from Hatigaon Agia village in the Goalpara district of Assam. "He is the sole earning member of the family. He comes from a village where there are no pakka roads. His mother used to work in other people's homes in the village but when Amar started working, he began taking care of his mother. He doesn't have anyone apart from his mother," said Mridul Deka, Amar's roommate in Hyderabad, while performing his last rite in Assam on Monday.

Amar came to Hyderabad in 2010 and started working as a security guard at Nanakramguda in the city. With a boom in food delivery services, he joined Zomato in 2013 and later, shifted to Swiggy. "He used to earn at least Rs. 30,000 per month. After spending on petrol and rent, he sent the remaining money to his mother," said Mridul.

He said seven of them live in a room in Anjaiah Nagar and everyone either works for Swiggy or Zomato. "We used to work the night shift till 6 a.m as the earning is higher and we got extra money. It was a regular day for us on Saturday. We left the room at the same time," said Mridul.

After Amar's death, Swiggy paid around Rs. 1 lakh to take his body to his village and also paid a compensation of around Rs. 50,000 to his mother. "We collected some money from other delivery partners and gave it to Amar's mother. Swiggy has said we will get some money from insurance. I am waiting to go to Hyderabad and claim the insurance. That is the only monetary hope we have left for his mother," added Mridul.

Nallagandla, on the outskirts of the city, is being developed as a residential area for people working mostly in IT companies. Due to the development works, debris, as well as the wreckage of newly-constructed homes, lie on the roads, posing risks to motorists. Amar was also driving along the same road when he met with the fatal accident.

This is not the first incident where a delivery partner has been killed in a road accident. A Swiggy delivery executive was hit by a lorry in Madhapur a month ago.

The risky life of food delivery executives

Accidents, trouble with the traffic police, scolding from customers – these are the common troubles the delivery partners face every day. "The stipulated time on Swiggy app is around 40 minutes at peak time at around 9 p.m. Restaurants are loaded with orders. They take time to give us the order and then there are traffic jams. The customers keep calling us every five minutes asking where we are and when will we deliver the order. We are worried about getting a low rating or cancellation which might affect our compensation. So, we try to reach on time. We can do it only by jumping traffic lights or going beyond the speed limits. I had three minor accidents last year," said Mahendra, a delivery partner.

The company also puts pressure on delivery partners to deliver on time. "On one hand the customer starts calling us when do not reach on time and now these platforms have started to penalise us if we deliver it late even if the road is blocked and we have to take another route. If our vehicle is punctured there is no one to listen to us. The company will charge from us if we do not deliver on time. On the other hand, the traffic police fine us even if we park our vehicle in front of the restaurant when we go to pick up the order. In the last four months, I have been fined thrice for wrong parking," said another Swiggy delivery partner.

He added that their income has also reduced. "Earlier, we used to get Rs. 20 for three km and now it has changed to Rs. 20 for five km," he said.

Road rage

The delivery agents also face road rage in different forms. In February, a Zomato delivery partner was stopped by a few people and attacked. They also tried to snatch the food he was delivering.

"At night, when we go to deliver food, we are afraid that someone will heckle us, snatch our food and phone and even our bike. We have no security and we risk our lives to deliver food," said another delivery partner.

Fast delivery costs lives

With the rise in grocery delivery apps that promise delivery in 10 minutes, safety concerns among delivery partners have increased. "No one is looking for the safety of these delivery partners. They are also human, they are not robots. These groceries are not essential but to make profits, these platforms are making them essential. Our delivery partners are paying with their lives," said Shaik Salauddin, Founder State President of Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union.

He added that the delivery partners are not being compensated properly when they get into accidents. "They are paying some money for accidents but what if someone breaks his leg? He has to pay the hospital bill and sit at home without any work. Who is going to compensate him? In Amar's case, his compensation should be based on his age. He was a young man with his whole life ahead of him. Giving a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh will not do anything for his mother. We are asking Swiggy to pay at least Rs. 10 lakh to the family. We have worker compensation laws for injury and death suffered on the job. Compensation is calculated on the basis of one's age. As a union, can you take them to court on this? Maybe then they'll value workers' lives more than how many lakh orders they delivered." added Shaik Salauddin.

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