No heat respite for food delivery boys this sweltering summer

Being paid on commission basis, they have no fixed working hours and are outside the ambit of any benefits for organised workforce.
Food delivery platforms pay between Rs 30 and Rs 90 per order (no fixed delivery pattern).
Food delivery platforms pay between Rs 30 and Rs 90 per order (no fixed delivery pattern).Photo | Express

BHUBANESWAR: For 27-year-old Dinesh Barik of Bhubaneswar, a wet towel beneath his helmet and a water bottle are the only respite from the scorching sun as he rides through the city carrying a bag on his back to deliver food orders. He begins his day at 10 am and continues working throughout the noon - the hottest part of the day - to ensure that he has at least 15 deliveries by evening.

Even as the special relief commissioner (SRC) on Monday restricted engagement of labourers in outdoor activities in wake of the intense heatwave in the state, there is little respite for gig workers - food delivery agents in particular - like Dinesh in the state. Being paid on commission basis, they have no fixed working hours and are outside the ambit of any benefits for organised workforce.

Food delivery platforms pay between Rs 30 and Rs 90 per order (no fixed delivery pattern) while for those working in logistics delivery, companies pay a salary ranging from Rs 8,000 to Rs 20,000 with a fixed delivery schedule.

“Compared to the pre-Covid period, there are many local delivery apps operational now in the food delivery business both in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. This has led to intense competition in the sector which is why we have to accept as many orders as we can for making a decent amount at the end of the day. The heatwave, notwithstanding,” Dinesh said.

Another delivery boy Bisu Mohanty who works in Cuttack, said as there is no particular timing for placement of food orders, they have to deliver as and when an order is received. “Even if that means delivering a food parcel at 2 pm. Since the money is less, I take as many orders as I can even during the afternoon,” he said.

Worse, the restaurants don’t allow the delivery workers to rest inside while the orders are prepared and in apartments, they are many times forced to take the stairs. “There are a few people who help us with drinking water,” he added.

While there is no registration of such workers, Union Minister Rameswar Teli had informed the Lok Sabha in 2021 that there were 52,123 gig workers in Odisha - 27,335 male, 24,781 female and seven transgenders.

Trade union leader Mahendra Parida said even as there is no employee-employer relationship when it comes to gig workers, they should be brought under the purview of labour laws and their work hours regulated from 11 am to 3 pm to save them from the heatwave.

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