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Lockdown And The Aftermath Has Come As A Blessing In Disguise For Delivery Boys
Lucknow, December 8 (TNA) After the lockdown was imposed, there was an immediate increase in the economic systems in the form of delivery boys of Swiggy, Zomato and later Amazon riding through the empty streets of most cities. They were the newfound urban Genies of the COVID-19 crisis from day one, either facilitating the panic buying of wheat flour or helping stress-induced experiments of new cuisines.
Manoj, a 30 year old man paralysed from one leg, works for Zomato and delivers food on his cycle. He told TNA, "I lost my father 4 years back and last month my brother died in an accident who was the sole earner of our house. I live with my mother and due to my disability it was hard for me to get job. But eventually I got this job as a delivery boy."
These workers are an essential instrument for the whole system of online shopping and food delivery. The employers, mostly large corporations, seldom keep them on payrolls and usually hire them on a contractual basis, which means lesser facilities than a regular employee, sometimes unsafe and uncertain working conditions.
Manoj earns barely 200/- each day based on the number of deliveries he makes. He further tells us, "I have to travel long distances on my cycle, and it is really difficult for me to pedal with one leg. But I have no option. Local doctor told me that I'm at high risk for Covid infection, but who will look after us if I don't earn?"
In a recent incident, a delivery boy working for a popular pizza chain was tested positive for the COVID-19. This ruffled many feathers in the media and the administration. However, all that was talked about was how he may have possibly infected these customers, and is the online delivery of food safe. The question of how did the delivery boy contract the disease, and why did the company not arrange for the requisite safety equipment for its delivery personnel was never asked.
The COVID-19 crisis is such a situation, where such jobs should be considered hazardous, and therefore it shall be the duty of the state and/or the employers to make sure that such workers are being provided with adequate safety equipment, and if any misfortunate incident happens where the workers contracts the infection, the employees and/or the state should take care of the expenses of treatment and other related expenses. Steps like the provision of minimum safety gear, and mandatory health insurance- at the expense of the employer and/or the state can be a feasible option, which can at least, to some extent, make the conditions of these workmen better.
The Internet has become a marketplace for the Indian middle class, where it can purchase almost everything it needs. The invisible hand of the market facilitates it via another set of invisible hands- the delivery personnel.
-- Mohd Haris Siddiqui
(The writer is a Journalism student, doing internship with The News Agency)