A Bumpy Journey From Hopelessness In Bihar To Gig Economy's Underbelly

(MENAFN- IANS) By Parvesh Sawarni

Gurugram, March 18 (IANS) The delivery boy -- having lunch on a motorcycle at a roadside community kitchen, sweat dripping down his body, tiredness on his face, phone in one hand, and earphone around his neck -- is enough to show that life is not easy for everyone.

Suraj Kumar, a 22-year-old from Bihar who ekes out a meagre living by delivering food to the towering residential complexes of Gurugram -- over a thousand kilometres from home -- is one such face.

Coming from Sabour in Bihar's Bhagalpur district, Suraj wanted to pursue higher education. However, financial constraints have forced him to put in 12 hours of back breaking labour every day for food delivery app Zomato in order to achieve his dream and to feed his family.

It is very easy for anyone to use a mobile app to order hot meals at his front door or any other location within minutes. But for the drivers who risk their lives to deliver those orders on time, it is a totally different proposition. For them, it is often a matter of survival as failing to deliver on schedule might lead to them losing their jobs.

They often face intimidation, serious injury, traffic congestion and even death to bring us our food.

Hundreds of young delivery men and boys work overtime throughout the day to ensure that the millions of Gurugram residents receive their daily needs of groceries, medicine, food etc in the comfort of their homes.

Kumar has been working as a delivery boy with Zomato for two years. For him, the festival time is the best time for earning. Usually, Kumar delivers 16 orders a day. That number goes up to more than 20 during the festival season.

He makes Rs 24,000 a month, (Rs 800 per day plus Rs 200 as incentives) on ordinary days. But he manages to earn Rs 72,000 a month (Rs 2,000 per day plus Rs 400 incentives) during the festival season because of the spike in orders.

Suraj, who lives in rented accommodation in Gurugram, has to take care of a family of five - his parents, wife, and two-year-old son.

'I have just completed my secondary education from a Bihar-based school and wanted to pursue my further education but here in Gurugram it is not possible as it is very expensive to live and study here. I am working hard to provide a good life for my family. My working hours are from noon to midnight without any break and this schedule becomes very tight during the festival season but it least bothers me because it offers a opportunity to earn more,' Suraj told IANS.

However, the delivery agent doesn't deal with parcels alone, he also deals with the recipient's expectations and reactions and condescension.

'When some people behave irrationally, for instance, using foul language and misbehaving in a drunken state, 'ghanna ghussa awe hai', (it is annoying),' said Raman Panchal, another food delivery boy.

Panchal, a resident of Jind district in Haryana, also has experiences similar to Suraj in his quest to earn money by working as a delivery boy.

That's the nature of their job. The more they work, the more they earn.

Panchal stated that he is working and earning but this unskilled job is risky and offers a bleak future.

'Being a delivery boy what am I learning special or any skill, nothing, I am young now and can perform in this profession but cannot adopt this as a profession for life.'

The two youngsters said in Gurugram they do not face the residents' ire as the residents treat them well. They even offer tips generously if the orders are delivered on time.

'Some customers misbehave during the night hours orders but I don't bother as they are inebriated. We have been taught during our training not to engage in unnecessary chatter with customers. We just say sorry, if it helps, and move on,' they added.

The delivery boys also mentioned the difficulties they face in their job like no shelter if it rains, waiting outside the restaurant for orders, the occasional customers not providing proper directions, customers not picking up phones to confirm their address, some societies not allowing delivery boys' bikes inside and some societies not allowing them to use their main lifts.

The incidents that took place in Gurugram:

* Four food delivery agents with Swiggy were killed after a speeding car hit their bikes on Golf Course road in Gurugram on March 22 last year.

* A 34-year-old delivery boy was killed after a SUV hit his motorcycle in Kanhai village in Gurugram in December 2022.




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