Gig workers are stabbed, stoned and abused in India
“After the Covid, [cab-hailing platforms] have no management. They laid off many employees. There are not many staff to help [drivers on ground]. To whom should we submit these problems? said Matthew. “At least before, there was an office concerned [to address disputes], now there is no office concerned. Everything is online.
Ola did not respond to questions sent by WIRED.
CIS’ Rathi says a responsive grievance mechanism for gig workers is “completely missing” and continues to be “one of the top three grievances” for workers. “Companies are able to provide more responsive services to customers,” he says. “Workers are as important if not more [than customers]and they should be able to extend the same kind of mechanisms, practices and policies to workers.
Because workers are often in precarious economic situations and have no job to fall back on, being mugged or assaulted has a huge impact on their ability to earn a living.
Some of the platforms offer limited insurance for gig workers, including for accidents. However, these don’t necessarily offer much respite, according to Aditi Surie, a senior consultant at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, a Bangalore-based research organization, who has studied the programs. His research has shown that making a claim against the insurance provided by the platform is a long and laborious process. “So even if you have serious bodily harm, there are a lot of measures that prevent anyone from using any insurance or offering from the platform,” Surie says. “So if you have a traffic accident, for example, the police have to intervene. Now finding the right police station, contacting your insurance in time, getting the ambulance there – these are all things the rigs say are trying to help but there’s nothing there – which then fall back on the worker.
Uber spokesperson Tomar said the company provided financial support to Devi to cover her loss of income following the incident, and that the company “helped her reclaim her medical expenses under Uber’s travel insurance policy, which covers all drivers on the app.” Devi claims that the insurance money and financial support from Uber for her lost earnings were not paid into her bank account.
“Uber is deeply committed to driver safety on the Uber app,” Tomar says. “Uber drivers have many of the same transparency and accountability features as riders, such as feedback and ratings for every ride, GPS tracking, an emergency button, and a shared ride feature.”
In Delhi, Devi is fed up with Uber, which she says isn’t safe or profitable enough to justify the risks. Devi, who previously worked in a hospital for meager pay, learned to drive just so she could start working for Uber, and started driving for the platform in 2019. A single mother, she had to find work to support herself of his two children. “That time, a lot of women around me told me that Uber was a good option and the earnings were good,” she says. “They didn’t even deduct the high commissions at the time.”
The first time she complained to Uber was in 2020, when a customer verbally assaulted her. “He threw insults at me. I had then filed a complaint against the customer, but Uber did nothing about it,” Devi said. “Uber never does anything when a driver complains. But even a small complaint against a driver means they will have their account blocked.
At the time, she recalls spending 500 rupees ($6.08) on fuel every day, but earning 2,000 rupees ($24.39) at home. But lately, she says fuel costs have risen to 700 rupees a day, while her income has fallen to less than 1,000 rupees.
Devi is upset that despite the life-threatening incident, the only calls she has received from Uber are about when she will resume driving, as she has been offline since January. She says, furious, that she blocked those numbers. “I worry about my children. What if something like this happened again? So I have to think seriously before taking the next steps,” she says. “At this time, I have no plans to start driving for Uber again.”
(Reporting of this story was supported by the Pulitzer Center’s AI Accountability Network.)