Food delivery giant Zomato has been ridden with controversy and the latest one has taken a religious turn this time in West Bengal. But there are a number of other facets to it.
West Bengal saw an agitation start a week ago over the plunge in payment rates to delivery executives of Indian food delivery unicorn Zomato. But what started as a controlled raising of concern by Zomato’s delivery partners took a religious turn when the executives protested against the delivering beef and pork recipes. The protest against the startup is a rare occasion where Hindu and Muslim working professionals have come together.
What started as concern against pay cuts of Zomato’s delivery partners took a religious turn when the executives protested against allegedly being forced to deliver beef and pork recipes.
They allegedly are resisting being made to deliver beef and pork, eating which is prohibited among the Hindus and Muslims respectively. The protests also saw a BJP and a TMC leader come out in support. Zomato, for an earlier incident, had stated, “Food has no religion, it is religion.”, which got strong support on the social media. But the issue which refuses to be clear in nature, saw its riders go on a strike. The entire agitation has a 1857-esque feel where Hindu and Muslim soldiers came together to denounce animal fat laden Enfield Rifle cartridges… or does it?
What the protesters are concerned about?
Mousin Akhter, who is spearheading the protest, told The Indian Express that they had been complaining about the payment rates for weeks. They were allegedly told to leave the company if the rates don’t suit them. As per Akhter, the issue turned towards beef and pork two weeks ago when their Zomato team leader held a meeting and told them that the company is tying up with some restaurants which serve beef. As per Akhter, “The Hindu delivery executives were against this. Similarly, Muslim executives were against delivering pork items. We told the team leader that this is not possible as this will hurt our religious sentiments.”
"If our demand is not fulfilled, we will continue our stir & not allow anyone to take online orders," threaten Zomato riders in #Bhubaneswar while protesting cut in per-order pay #Odisha pic.twitter.com/W5jDjBQvFw— OTV (@otvnews) August 2, 2019
But the real issue that’s agitating numbers seems to be payment cuts. As another delivery executive, Sujit Kumar Gupta, explained, “When I joined work two years ago, I was assured that I will earn a minimum of Rs 4,000 per week with or without orders. We got Rs 80 to Rs 100 for each delivery. We used to get incentives. Now, we get Rs 25 per delivery. Initially, one would earn Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per month. Now, we hardly make Rs 15,000 despite working from 12 noon to midnight,”
The political angle
As soon as the protests took a religious turn, it was revealed by media reports that a local BJP leader, Sanjay Kumar Shukla (the secretary of BJP’s Uttar Howrah Mandal) had joined in support. Shukla stated that he was at the spot as a social worker and not in the capacity of a BJP leader. As per Indian Express, Shukla said, “We do not want to politicise the issue. But how can a Hindu deliver beef and a Muslim deliver pork?… This hurts a person’s religious sentiments.”
Another political leader who came out in support of the protesters was TMC’s Rajib Banerjee who is also the West Bengal Tribal Development Minister. Banerjee said, “The company must not force any person to go against their religion.” The protestors are pinning their hopes on their upcoming meeting scheduled to take place on 16th August with the Zomato Officials.
India’s irrational tryst with Spirituality
India is a country which stands on the religious ground where spirituality gives birth to the ideas and peace among the cosmopolitans. Recently, religious values in terms of animal meat consumption has been in rampant controversy. Incidents like lynching in the name of cow slaughter atrociously became an act which horrified the citizens of India.
We are proud of the idea of India – and the diversity of our esteemed customers and partners. We aren’t sorry to lose any business that comes in the way of our values. 🇮🇳 https://t.co/cgSIW2ow9B— Deepinder Goyal (@deepigoyal) July 31, 2019
According to the Reuters report, a total of 63 cow vigilante attacks had occurred between 2010 to mid-2017 in India, mostly since the Modi government came to power in 2014. In these attacks between 2010 and June 2017, “28 Indians – 24 of them Muslims – were killed and 124 injured”.
History of Beef eating in India
In a hymn of the Rigveda, it is said that “Indra will eat thy bulls.” In another hymn of Rigveda, Agni was styled as Uksanna and Vasanna, i.e., an eater of bulls and barren cows. According to the Complete Works of Swami Vivekanand (volume 3, pg. 445) – Regarding sacrificing and eating beef, he said: “You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to the old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions, he must sacrifice a bull and eat it.”
According to Manusmriti, “The consumption of meat (is befitting) for sacrifices,’ that is declared to be a rule made by the Gods” (Manusmriti, 5:31 ). Also, “But a man who, being duly engaged (to officiate or to dine at a sacred rite), refuses to eat meat, becomes after death an animal during twenty-one existences.”(Manusmriti, 5:35 ). This goes to show that beef eating wasn’t denounced in the Hindu religion as has been a contempt in the modern ages.
The legality of Cow Slaughter
Any type of meat is rich in protein, and beef meat is the cheapest source of protein for the poor people. It is legal in many states of India, in some states with no restrictions like in Kerala, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim, While in some states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Assam you have to get ‘fit-for-slaughter’ certificate which means cattle stops milking, no longer to be used for breeding or agricultural operations.
In some states, there is imprisonment of 10 years for cow slaughter like in Haryana, J&K, Jharkhand and Rajasthan and a hefty fine of Rs. 50,000 in Chhattisgarh and Gujarat and Rs. 1 lakh in Haryana. However, apart from the wrath of non-eaters on eaters, the sacred cow does not enjoy great focus on attempts at welfare. Indian streets have thousands of cows that roam without end, survive on plastics-ridden junk. Even the most devout Hindus after desert their venerated pet when a cow has aged past milking and fertility.
The Irony of the Indian Market
It’s an irony that India is stuck between the hypocrisy of religion and society which helps sections to politicise issues for ulterior benefits. Proof of this is the fact that there are hardly any Zomato partner restaurants in the region of the protests that serve beef.
There are no Zomato partner restaurants in Howrah, the region of the protests, that serve beef.
Indeed, very recently, the company saw a similar incident, when a customer declined an order and made a fuss about his food being delivered by a non-Hindu rider in Jabalpur. Now the protesters will put forward their demands of salary revision and address their skepticism around pork and beef with a top Zomato officer who is scheduled to visit Howrah on the 16th.
Hi. In a country as diverse as India, it is impossible to ensure that vegetarian and non-vegetarian preferences are factored into delivery logistics. There is a small group of partners in Howrah who have raised concerns and we are looking to resolve the issue as soon as possible.— Zomato Care (@zomatocare) August 12, 2019
Zomato as a company takes a tough stance of not bringing religion into logistical operations. A company spokesperson said, “In a country as diverse as India, it is impossible to ensure that vegetarian and non-vegetarian preferences are factored into delivery logistics. Delivery partners are unequivocally made to understand the practical nature of the job as they choose to enter the workforce. All our partners understand this. There is a small group of partners in Howrah who have raised concerns, and we are looking to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”
By: Abhishek Kumar Sushil, Staff Writer, DKODING Media