Food aggregators Swiggy and Zomato on Saturday said that they have paused operations in Hyderabad until further clarity from the Telangana government on lockdown restrictions in the state. The companies were reacting to the Hyderabad police rounding up their delivery executives, seizing their vehicles and slapping fines on them. The Telangana government in their list of permitted activities at the time of announcing a lockdown, had included e-commerce (delivery) of goods and merchandise including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. However, violating the state's own Government Order (GO), the police on Saturday stopped delivery executives and in some instances, even assaulted them.
Zomato executives had told the media that they were notified that the app will be in service till 4 pm on Saturday evening. Several delivery executives were stopped at checkpoints set up by the police as part of enforcing the lockdown based on Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Raoâ€™s directions. Their bikes were seized and many were fined Rs 1000. A spokesperson for Zomato said, "This was an unforeseen development since the official government directive allowed food delivery as an essential service. We have paused our operations till we have clarity from the authorities, keeping in mind the safety of our delivery partners.â€ť
Swiggy executives too faced a similar ordeal on Saturday and video footage had emerged of the police assaulting a few delivery executives with laathis. A Swiggy spokesperson said, â€śWhile the governmentâ€™s recent directive allows Swiggy to operate as an essential service not just for our food deliveries but also Swiggy Genie and other services, we have paused our operations due to the on-ground challenges today. Weâ€™re prioritising the safety of delivery partners while we await clarity on this matter.â€ť
The Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union questioned that the GO states that food delivery is permitted, then why the police were harassing delivery workers. It asked the police to release the seized vehicles and waive off the penalty imposed.
Police seize vehicles of Zomato,Uber eats,swiggy & Dunzo delivery boys & fined Rs 1000 each in Hyderabad on Saturday nd as per police the vehicles will b released after 5pm, police say's food delivery agents cannot be considerd under essential services. Express video by R V K Rao pic.twitter.com/LvF4Ry2Bmgâ€” TNIE Telangana (@XpressHyderabad) May 22, 2021
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 @TelanganaDGP @cpcybd @CPHydCity @RachakondaCop 1/2 pic.twitter.com/qvWnbESAfWâ€” Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) May 22, 2021
The police later clarified that e-commerce food delivery has permission to operate. Rachakonda Commissioner Mahesh Baghwath speaking to NTV Telugu, clarified that the e-commerce food delivery has permission to operate. The officer said that the executives were hauled up after people were allegedly found misusing Swiggy and Zomato T-shirts to roam around during the lockdown. â€śThere is permission for e-commerce for food delivery but some youth were misusing the T-shirts of Swiggy and Zomato to roam around. The checks were initiated after a few people were found impersonating delivery persons wearing the T-shirts to move about. If you have passes you have travelled in the routes specified in the pass. Those violating this will be booked under the Disaster Management Act and Section 188 Indian Penal Code (IPC) (for Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), â€ś said the Commissioner.