India food delivery app rolls back green uniform plan

 India food delivery app rolls back green uniform plan
 India food delivery app rolls back green uniform plan

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - KOCHI — A popular Indian food delivery app says it will roll back new green uniforms for riders delivering vegetarian food after the scheme sparked backlash online.

Zomato said it would deliver food from "only pure vegetarian" restaurants through a separate fleet of riders.

These riders would wear new green-colored uniforms against Zomato's signature red, it said.

The scheme was criticized by many who said it could reinforce caste norms.

In India, eating meat is closely tied to the country's rigid caste practices. People who describe themselves as "pure vegetarian" often have separate vessels to cook and consume the food to ensure it does not interact with any form of meat.

Many have criticized the practice as being rooted in notions of purity and upper-caste sensibilities. Some historians have said that India has a long meat-eating tradition, including among Brahmins, many of whom continue to consume it even today.

The backlash started on Tuesday when Zomato's CEO Deepinder Goyal said the delivery app had introduced a new "Pure Veg" fleet to cater to its vegetarian customer base.

"India has the largest percentage of vegetarians in the world, and one of the most important feedback we've gotten from them is that they are very particular about how their food is cooked, and how their food is handled," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Goyal said that the scheme was not intended to "serve or alienate any religious, or political preference" but several Indians criticized it for being blatantly "casteist" and "regressive".

Many recounted instances of being harassed by their neighbors for ordering and consuming meat dishes. "Ordering meat discreetly in your veg neighborhood becomes a little difficult now. Thanks to Zomato," one user wrote.

Others raised concerns about the safety of the delivery riders, pointing out that they would now be identified because of the green delivery box and uniform.

"This will make RWAs [residential associations] ban Zomato delivery guys who are now wearing your ill-conceived green dress," one user wrote.

"Will non-vegetarian Hindus or Muslims be allowed to deliver [vegetarian] food? And if allowed, who is responsible for their safety?" another user asked.

As the outrage continued, Goyal announced on Wednesday that the company had decided to roll back the "on-ground segregation" of the new fleet.

"All our riders — both our regular fleet, and our fleet for vegetarians, will wear the color red," he wrote on X.

"This will ensure that our red uniform delivery partners are not incorrectly associated with non-veg food, and blocked by any RWAs or societies during any special days," he said, adding that the riders' "physical safety is of paramount importance".

Many, however, pointed out that the company had only done away the colour coding but "not the concept".

Last year, the platform had withdrawn an advertisement on recycling waste after backlash over how it portrayed a Dalit character. Dalits (formerly untouchables) are a historically disadvantaged group in the country. — BBC

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