Zomato’s ‘Pure Vegetarian Fleet’ Ignites Controversy Over Caste and Purity in Indian Food Culture | Labor News

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Rajesh Jatavad, a delivery rider for Zomato in southern India, is concerned about his full name being shown to customers on the platform, as his last name reveals his marginalized caste. In mid-March, Zomato announced a new “Pure Veg Mode” and “Pure Veg Fleet” for customers with vegetarian preferences. This decision has raised issues for workers like Jatavad, who already face discrimination due to their caste.

Over half of delivery workers in India are from scheduled castes and tribes, who have historically faced discrimination. Zomato’s new policies could potentially reinforce stereotypes and deepen discrimination against these workers. The company’s CEO, Deepinder Goyal, explained that the separate fleets were created to prevent food spills in delivery boxes from affecting vegetarian orders.

While Zomato has taken steps to address concerns about the safety of delivery workers, the segregation of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options has sparked criticism for exploiting religious and caste-based divisions. Sociologists have warned that this could lead to social conflicts and undermine harmony in society.

This controversy is not new for India or Zomato, as food choices have long been tied to the caste system and notions of purity and pollution. The company’s decision to introduce special fleets for vegetarian orders has been met with mixed reactions, with some experts suggesting that a focus on improving existing processes could have been a better approach.

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