A gnawing fear of being caught up in the wrong place, a neighbourhood where protests have erupted or where police are pursuing aggressive curbs, prompted food delivery agent Afzal Afzi to wear his company T-shirt at all times. “I wore it even when I was off duty. I hoped people or authorities would see that I am just a normal worker,” said the 23-year-old, who lives with his family in Warzipur, Delhi. “The T-shirt and the motorcycle painted in company colours gave me a sense of safety.” But such small steps could not completely shield him and thousands of other gig workers from the emotional and financial toll linked to the widespread anger over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, and to subsequent crackdowns by authorities. Internet shutdowns, curfew-like situations, and overall tensions about violence and police’s much criticised methods severely hurt demand and incomes in December, a usually festive period when online companies and gig workers expect brisk business. Internet blackouts cost India $1.3 billion in economic activity in 2019, according to a report. “December turned out to be the worst period for us,” Afzal said. Videos and images of police clamping down on protesters left his family deeply… Read full this story
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