Delivery executives of Swiggy and Zomato were fined or had their vehicles seized by police in Hyderabad on Friday as police in the city cracked down against people violating Telangana’s lockdown restrictions.
This despite e-commerce based food delivery services being permitted in the state according to lockdown norms issued on May 12.
A video on Twitter shared by the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union showed delivery executives of Zomato and Swiggy being beaten at a checkpost by the police. A delivery executive wearing a Zomato t-shirt can also be seen trying to show his phone to the senior official before getting beaten.
A delivery person in Hyderabad whose friend was fined and his vehicle seized by the police told Entrackr that “we were not expecting such a heavy crackdown since we thought that e-commerce services were allowed”. This person was speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“Delivery workers were stopped at different checkpoints installed by the police to regulate vehicle movement and many workers were stuck with food parcels with them. For people whose vehicles have been seized, the police have told them that their vehicle will only be released after the lockdown ends and that too after paying a penalty”, a second delivery person told Entrackr requesting anonymity.
“Now who is going to pay for my friend’s bike which was seized by the police? Will Zomato or Swiggy bear the costs for these fines?” the first person asked.
In response to the police’s actions, both Swiggy and Zomato have stopped services in Hyderabad as the companies await clarity on the situation.
“…we have paused our operations due to the on-ground challenges today. We’re prioritising the safety of delivery partners while we await clarity on this matter,” a Swiggy spokesperson said. “This was an unforeseen development since the official government directive allowed food delivery as an essential service,” a spokesperson for Zomato said.
A senior police officer from the West Division of Hyderabad City Police told Entrackr on the condition of anonymity that there have been instances where people have worn Swiggy and Zomato shirts to pass off as delivery people, and that the police was being “overly cautious”.
“Some people are taking the lockdown very lightly and strong measures will have to be taken on them,” Anjani Kumar, the commissioner of Hyderabad City Police said.
“There will be serious action starting from May 22. Only medical, health and essential goods services will be allowed on the streets after 10 AM. For everyone else found on the roads, a case will be booked, and their vehicles will be seized,” he added.
He did not respond to our queries on why delivery executives were fined or their vehicles seized even when the government order allowed them to function, and how beating up delivery executives was a proportionate response.
The food delivery executives also feel that apart from the police’s heavy-handed actions, the likes of Swiggy and Zomato are equally to blame for the entire fiasco.
“There was no prior communication from the app-based drivers and food delivery companies about the restriction in service. The companies closed their app and stopped taking orders when the police started obstructing the drivers and delivery workers,” Shaik Saluddin, state president of the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union, said in a statement to Entrackr.