“Forced To Deliver Beef And Pork”: Zomato Riders Protest In Kolkata
12th August 2019
Zomato employees in Kolkata today refused to deliver food containing either beef or pork and said they planned to go on an indefinite strike. Employees of the web- and app-based food delivery app took to the streets of the West Bengal capital shouting “Zomato ki dadagiri nahi chalegi (Zomato’s bullying is unacceptable)”. The striking employees have explained that Hindu agents had declared themselves uncomfortable handling food with beef, while Muslim riders said they did not want to deliver food containing pork. “The company is not listening to our demands and forcing us to deliver beef and pork against our will. Hindus have a problem is delivering beef while Muslims do not want to deliver pork. We are not ready to deliver such things on any condition. We are forced to deliver such things,” Mausin Akhtar, an employee, told news agency ANI. “They are playing with our religious sentiments. We, the Hindus, were asked to deliver beef while in coming days our Muslims brothers will be asked to deliver pork. This is not acceptable,” another claimed. Zomato issued a clarification after employees threatened strike. “In a country as diverse as India, it is impossible to ensure that vegetarian and non-vegetarian preferences are factored into delivery logistics. 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’ve raised concerns & we’re looking to resolve the issue,” the food delivery platform was quoted as saying by ANI. The call to strike comes amid increasing polarisation in the state that peaked during the recently held election in which the BJP made substantial inroads. The consumption of beef, a sensitive subject in the country, became a controversial topic in 2017 after the BJP-led government at the centre announced a nationwide ban on the slaughter of cows. BJP-ruled states believe in the protection of the cow and are opposed to the consumption of beef. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had labelled the ban “undemocratic” and “unconstitutional” and Bengal remains one of only a few prominent states in which neither the slaughter nor the consumption of beef is illegal. However, this could change with the BJP’s growing influence. Bengal witnessed a bitter turf war between Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and the BJP during the Lok Sabha polls in April-May, with the Trinamool coming off second-best – the BJP went from two seats in 2014 to 18, prompting a state BJP leader to claim the Mamata Banerjee’s government would not survive till 2021 polls. In June, the organisers of a beef festival in Kolkata were forced to call it off after a barrage of threatening calls and hate messages. Since the results of the national election, there have been several violent clashes between cattle vigilantes, or ‘gau rakshaks’, and Muslims and minority community members over the alleged sale, transportation and consumption of beef. In May, a woman was among three people thrashed in Madhya Pradesh for allegedly carrying beef. The preceding month, in Assam, a man was arrested for allegedly assaulting and force-feeding pork to a Muslim beef seller. The action by Zomato employees in Kolkata comes a week after a Zomato user in Madhya Pradesh cancelled his order because the man delivering his meal was a “non-Hindu”, triggering a nationwide debate on religious intolerance and earning himself a police warning.