Hyderabad police stop food delivery executives as part of lockdown enforcement

 The Telangana government had earlier allowed home delivery and takeaway at restaurants as part of essential goods and services.
Food Delivery executives stopped in Hyderabad during lockdown.
Food Delivery executives stopped in Hyderabad during lockdown.
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Following the Telangana Chief Minister’s call for enforcing a stricter lockdown, the Hyderabad police began implementing lockdown with more vigour on Saturday. Police have increased checkpoints across the city and were seen stopping food delivery executives. Video footage also emerged of police rounding up food delivery executives and assaulting a few. The Telangana government had earlier allowed the movement of e-commerce, (delivery) of goods and merchandise including food, pharmaceutical and medical equipment. Home delivery of food and takeaway at restaurants are allowed as part of essential goods and services. 

The strict enforcement comes after CM K Chandrasekhar Rao on Friday directed collectors and superintendents of police of all districts to enforce lockdown much more strictly. The CM said coronavirus cases were seeing a dip in the state since a lockdown was imposed on May 11, reported Deccan Chronicle (pls link). Following the directions, police across the state have enforced vigil at checkpoints, seizing vehicles found moving unnecessarily. Food delivery executives were checked and stopped across Hyderabad and in some cases, assaulted under the Cyberabad police commissionerate.

The Cyberabad police on Saturday issued a public advisory stating that it has noticed a large number of public coming out to buy essential goods after 8 am though relaxation time is between 6 am and 10 am. Police said this is leading to congestion at shops and establishments. ”This will go against our efforts in fighting the spread of the pandemic in society. Hence public are advised to plan for early transactions for their daily essential purchases and go home by 9: 30 am so that the lockdown can be implemented effectively,” police added in a tweet. 

Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar issued a notification that from May 23, the movement of all goods and vehicles for loading and unloading will be permitted only from 9 pm to 8 am (next day morning) and between 10 am and 9 pm, no goods vehicles will be permitted for both loading and unloading. Only oxygen and domestic gas cylinders carrying vehicles, oxygen tankers, vehicles carrying medical equipment and water tankers will be allowed during the lockdown period. 

Rachakonda Police Commissioner Mahesh Baghwath said they have set up 46 check posts under the commissionerate and seized 1,579 vehicles for various violations on Saturday. The Commissioner warned that vehicles will be checked strictly and those moving unnecessarily will be seized for violation of GO (Government Order) 102 and GO 08.  

Food delivery executives stopped

Hyderabad Member of Parliament (MP) Asaduddin Owaisi pointed out that the Telangana government order on lockdown had allowed the free movement of food delivery executives. He tweeted, "G.O on lockdown in Telangana clearly states that food delivery is permitted. Why are delivery personnel being detained then? They must be released along with their vehicles immediately. These are poor youths trying to get by.” The MP tagged the Telangana DGP, and commissioners of all the three commissionerates in his tweet. 

Tweeting to the Telangana Chief Secretary, the Hyderabad MP said, "If the govt has decided to not allow food delivery, then please amend the GO. Till such an amendment is made, food delivery personnel should not be stopped.”

Responding to the video footage going viral of food delivery executives belonging to Swiggy and Zomato being stopped for checks and in some cases assaulted, Cyberabad Commissioner VC Sajjanar said, "The checking and verification is happening across the city and not just in Cyberabad. We have come across several cases of misuse and hence we are carrying out verifications. The delivery executives are not being stopped. Once their details are verified, they are allowed to leave.”

Meanwhile, Zomato customers in certain parts of Hyderabad received in-app notification that "as per mandate, all restaurants will remain closed from 2:45 pm to 6 am.”

Speaking to the media, a Zomato executive said they were informed by the Zomato app that the executives had permission till 4 pm for making food deliveries. However, they were still stopped. "They put Rs 1,000 fine on us and the Zomato team leader isn't even picking the call. The police have seized our vehicles. We went on the road as we had permission but what do we do now, I have food for the customer with me. I earn Rs 1200 for duty between 10 am to 10 pm of which Rs 300 goes for petrol, Rs 900 is left. The police stopped me in front of Virinchi hospital. The Zomato management isn't picking the call. They are asking us to walk back home. The customer says we have permission to deliver and are asking to come and deliver. What do we do now?"

Vasu Pasham, an entrepreneur who runs a cloud kitchen service across Hyderabad, said the arbitrary targeting of food delivery executives was leading to loss of business. “Stopping the food delivery service will lead to huge losses for restaurants that trusted the government order. The GO had said food delivery was allowed, so small businesses like ours planned and invested accordingly. If the services are not allowed, it will lead to loss of jobs in an already stressed sector.”

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