Food for thought: The plight of delivery boys during lockdown

Rnakulam , along with three other districts in Kerala, has been experiencing the effect of triple lockdown for the past two days.

Published: 19th May 2021 05:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th May 2021 05:12 AM   |  A+A-

A delivery boy stops on Azad Road, Kochi, at a police barricade. He had to leave his two-wheeler and walk to the customer | Albin Mathew

Express News Service

KOCHI: Ever since triple lockdown was enforced in the district two days ago, complaints pour in from eateries across the city that delivery boys are not able to carry out services due to blocked roads. Temporary ban on parcel service adds to the worry.

Ernakulam, along with three other districts in Kerala, has been experiencing the effect of triple lockdown for the past two days. Though the government has given relaxations on food delivery, the decision to stop parcel services has hit the industry as well as the public hard. Bystanders of patients admitted to hospitals, who rely on small-scale hotels’ parcel services, and outstation workers have also been hit badly.

Some of the restaurants in the city like Ceylon Bake House, Ponnurunni, said their services had been hit by a shortage of staff as many of them returned to their native places during the pandemic. Hotel District 7 in Vyttila said that their delivery services in the Kaloor area were the most affected. Dakshin Spicy Kitchen near Kakkanad also had to stop delivery due to a shortage of staff.

Hospital premises affected
Jayapal said hotels cannot be kept open for just five or six orders.
“People admitted into hospitals in the rural areas are suffering and their bystanders are searching for food in the nearby hotels which cannot provide parcels. We know the spread of the pandemic has forced the government to take this extreme step, but they should have made some alternative arrangements,” said Jayapal. KHRA Thiruvananthapuram district working president Madhusoodhanan Nair said nearly half of the orders were cancelled on Monday when the delivery boys were either stopped or got delayed in the triple lockdown.

“On many roads, there are no people to check or remove the barricades so that the delivery boys can proceed after checking. Vellayambalam, Kawdiar, Ambalamukku, Pottakuzhy, and Pattom areas are the more affected. We are forced to dump the food after packing, which incurs a huge loss,” he said.

Experience of delivery boys
Riyas V S, a delivery boy of Swiggy, said some of the questions they face were illogical. “Some officers asked whether I had vaccinated against Covid. Even people above 45 years are struggling to get vaccine dose, so how can they expect youngsters like me to get vaccinated?” he asked.

His brother Rafeeq V S also had to face similar questions in Edakochi. Then he took diversion via Thoppumpady area after showing a negative RT-PCR report. He said more youngsters were taking up the job of delivery boys after their regular losing jobs.

Police have no other option
Ernakulam West traffic Station House Officer Jobin Antony said the threats posed by delivery boys must be taken seriously. He added the police have requested the Disaster Management Authority to consider the issue seriously.

“Consider one delivery boy delivering 30-60 packets a day, they are one of the main suspected communities in spreading the virus. The hotels and restaurants from which they collect food have workers from other states. This is also applicable to the case of e-commerce platforms. So, we have insisted all of them keep an RT-PCR report issued within 14 days,” he said.

Till now no case has been registered in the district against any delivery boys.“There are more than 5,000 delivery boys in Ernakulam. When you multiply the number with the minimum deliveries they make a day, you can understand the number of contacts they have a day. This makes the lives of those sitting indoors, keeping all protocols, risky. Another suspicious factor is that the number of positive cases from among the delivery boys is very minimal,” the officer said.

Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA) state general secretary G Jayapal said the police were stopping delivery boys in many areas to check for Covid negative certificates. Further, several roads are blocked as part of containment. 

“The only solution is to restore parcel service as many customers are not able to access the food delivery applications. Also, ordinary people cannot afford to pay the apps’ service charges,” he said. “Online food delivery is normally being used by the affluent, that too mostly in cities. But there are people in the villages --- many of them labourers --- migrant workers, and bystanders of people admitted to hospitals. My hotel is in Perumbavoor and we suffered almost 50% slump in business when parcel service stopped,” Jayapal said.


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