An agitation over the dip in payment rates to delivery executives of Zomato food app in West Bengal’s Howrah a week ago took a religious turn on Sunday as the delivery executives protested against the delivery of food items containing pork and beef.
The Indian Express spoke to a number of delivery executives who said that the primary agenda of their protest, that began on August 5, was a dip in payment rates.
But their protest grabbed the national headlines on Sunday with their refusal to deliver pork and beef food items, citing religious sentiments.
Adding to the mix was the presence of a local BJP leader, Sanjay Kumar Shukla, the secretary of BJP’s Uttar Howrah Mandal 2. On Sunday, when the delivery executives protested, Shukla was seen standing with them in front of mediapersons. On Monday, however, he was not seen posing with the protesting executives.
“I am not with the protesting employees as a BJP man,” Shukla told The Indian Express on Monday. “We do not want to politicise the issue. But how can a Hindu deliver beef and a Muslim deliver pork?… This hurts a person’s religious sentiments.”
A minister in the Mamata Banerjee government waded into the controversy on Monday, backing the delivery executives. “The company must not force any person to go against their religion. I will look into the matter,” State Tribal Development Minister Rajib Banerjee said.
However, many of the delivery executives said that their protest centred around the payment issue.
“Our boys also protested against the delivery of pork and beef then. But mainly it was a payment issue. But now suddenly the media has highlighted our agitation on the pork and beef issue,” Sujit Kumar Gupta, who has been working with the food delivery app for the past two years, said.
“When I joined work two years ago, I was assured that I will earn a minimum of Rs 4,000 per week with or without orders. We got Rs 80 to Rs 100 for each delivery. We used to get incentives. Now, we get Rs 25 per delivery… Initially, one would earn Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per month. Now, we hardly make Rs 15,000 despite working from 12 noon to midnight,” said Gupta.
Mousin Akhter, who is spearheading the protest, told The Indian Express, “We have been complaining about the payment cuts and have been told to leave if it doesn’t suit us. Then two weeks ago, our team leader held a meeting… He told us that the company is tying up with some restaurants which serve beef. The Hindu delivery executives were against this. Similarly Muslim executives were against delivering pork items. We told the team leader that this is not possible as this will hurt our religious sentiments.”
The protesting executives are pinning their hopes on their meeting with Zomato officials, which they claimed, is scheduled to take place on August 16 at the company’s Kolkata office.
Meanwhile, Zomato has not issued any fresh statment after the one it released on Sunday. “…Delivery partners are unequivocally made to understand the practical nature of the job as they choose to enter the workforce. All our partners understand this fully. There is a small group of partners in Howrah who have raised concerns and we are looking to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” the company had said on Sunday evening.