This article is written by Priyal Sheth pursuing BBA.LLB(H) at Amity University Kolkata. This article talks about the Problems faced by the Online Delivery persons and their Rights during the Covid 19 Pandemic.

The business of online delivery business has been growing at a speedy rate in India. A few years back people were doubtful about food delivering apps but now the scene has turned upside down and many livelihoods depend solely upon the food apps for their day to day fuel. Internet has been like helpful hands by providing with everything. These helpful hands of internet work via another set of invisible hands – the delivery force. Those people hold the major part in running the online food companies and online marketing as well.

The companies providing the service usually keep them on payrolls and hire them on a contractual basis which means lesser facilities than a regular employee plus an unsafe and uncertain condition. In addition to these flaws, the delivery boys of food companies have a factor for the customers which is high-speed delivery. This then results in instances of over speeding accidents to reach in time which is still unheard of[1]. There exists a common knowledge among the entrepreneur that there should no strict rule to follow the Labour Rights Protection laws as it is going to hamper the growth of the economy.

A recent incident occurred where a delivery boy was working in a well-known pizza chain, tested positive for the COVID-19[2]. The main concern of the media was how he may have possible infected and spread the virus among the customers. No one ever talks about or raised the question that why did the company not arrange a proper safety equipment for its delivery force and how did e catch virus. The main concern should be here that due to the company’s negligence in safety the personnel was then affected by the virus.

Right to safe and healthy workplace has been enumerated in Part III of the Indian Constitution, but it has been considered as a ‘fundamental right’ as it is an important right for their life. Under article 21 safety of laborers at the workplace is interpreted as their right to healthy and safe livelihood[3]. But, due to a rise in the cost obtained by the employer, basic life protecting measure has always been denied.

With the recent global pandemic of COVID-19, the first precaution is to avoid social contact at all times, which will be a big step in controlling the spread of the virus. But, the work of delivery personnel includes physically visiting the customers and delivering the product to them. Therefore, the main step to be taken is to provide them with safety equipment to minimize the danger risk and a safe environment. However, it does not seem of much importance for the companies nor the state. Steps like contactless delivery has been taken so that the customers and delivery personnel won’t meet each other and the product would be kept at the customer’s doorstep to avoid the spread of the virus. But still the delivery personnel is out in the open visiting multiple houses and putting his/her life at risk.

The economy has however had a downfall due to the recent lockdown across the country but it did not stop the online delivery business. Since the day 1 of the lock[4]down period online delivery sector was never put on hold the delivery personnel still hit the road just to earn their daily bread and keep themselves and their families exposed to the virus. While, the manufacturing unit of the economy has been ordered to shut down and the employees were paid salaries at home. On the other side, the employees of a restaurant were temporarily given a job to deliver the groceries by the online grocery companies.

There would be no laying off employees working in a restaurant because The National Restaurant Association of India would sign an agreement with other companies to find temporary employment[5]. This meant that even during a situation like a pandemic that personnel need to come out and work and minimise their own loses and compromise the health of their families too to earn daily bread.

During the time like these, the sole responsibility is of the state to provide necessary safety equipment’s to them. While the migrants have been moving in masses to their villages due to the lack of resources, the people working in this sector were forced to choose between losing their jobs and starving or delivering stuffs around while putting their health at risk. The government took a step in providing the health workers, the police force with adequate safety measures but overlooked the situation of the delivery personnel.

Recently, the Supreme Court while hearing a plea regarding the matter that the labour class being put under miserable conditions during the lockdown and the government did not raise the question of poor facilities but only looked into the matter with food and shelter facilities[6].

The right to fair wages and a safe working environment was found not only in the Directive Principles of State Policy – Article 39 (e) and (f) have been upheld by the supreme court in Article 21. This fundamental right was ensured by the court in the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs. Union of India[7].

The court had held that no workman should be forced to work under hazardous conditions for his bread and if they are put into such situations it would be a responsibility on the state. We know that the treatment of COVID 19 is an extremely expensive affair and talking about the labour class for them the expense of the treatment would be just unbearable[8].

During this pandemic situation, the lower class people have been struggling to feed their family and also the labour class. They are willing to put their life on risk just to feed their families empty stomach. So, it is the responsibility of the state or the employers to provide the workers with adequate safety equipment and if any unfortunate incident occurs where the workers contact the infection/virus then the state should take care of the expenses of the treatment and expenses related to the treatment. The government should take steps like providing minimum safety gear and compulsory health insurance at the expense of the employer or the state can be a feasible option, which can make the conditions of these workmen better to some extent.

[1] Zomato loses fourth boy to crash in seven months: Chandigarh News – Times of India The Times of India, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/zomato-loses-fourth-boy-to-crash-in-7-months/articleshow/72175284.cms (last visited Jun 19, 2020)

[2] Delhi pizza delivery boy tests positive for coronavirus, 72 families quarantined: 10 points India Today, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/delhi-pizza-delivery-boy-tests-positive-for-coronavirus-72-families-quarantined-10-points-1667588-2020-04-16 (last visited Jun 19, 2020)

[3] Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs Union Of India & Others 

[4] NRAI and BigBasket partner to help restaurant staff gain temporary employment Livemint, https://www.livemint.com/companies/start-ups/nrai-and-bigbasket-partner-to-help-restaurant-staff-gain-temporary-employment-11585597926027.html (last visited Jun 19, 2020)

[5] NRAI and BigBasket partner to help restaurant staff gain temporary employment Livemint, https://www.livemint.com/companies/start-ups/nrai-and-bigbasket-partner-to-help-restaurant-staff-gain-temporary-employment-11585597926027.html (last visited Jun 19, 2020)

[6] If meals are given…: Supreme Court’s query If meals are given…why do they require wages: Supreme Court’s query during coronavirus lockdown, https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/if-meals-are-given-why-do-they-require-wages-supreme-courts-query-during-coronavirus-lockdown/cid/1762977 (last visited Jun 19, 2020)

[7] Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs Union Of India & Others 

[8] How costly coronavirus treatment in a private hospital will be for common man India Today, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/how-costly-coronavirus-treatment-private-hospital-common-man-india-1663401-2020-04-04 (last visited Jun 19, 2020)

Written By

Author Name: Priyal Sheth

Published on – 21st June 2020

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s