Necrocapitalism and the dark side of India’s gig work economy

by Rahul Devi

The gig economy in India is growing rapidly, with more and more individuals relying on gig work to make a living. However, not all gig workers are benefiting equally from this trend. While high-skilled gig workers involved in consulting services enjoy higher wages and better working conditions, semi-skilled gig workers often find themselves on the wrong side of the aggregators.

Semi-skilled gig workers, such as taxi drivers, delivery people, plumbers, and electricians, face numerous challenges in their day-to-day lives. They have unlimited working hours, ever-lowering minimum wage rates, and no social security payments or benefits. To make matters worse, they can be arbitrarily deleted from the platform by aggregators.

In July 2021, the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT) filed a petition before the Supreme Court of India, arguing that aggregators such as Ola, Uber, and Zomato violated the constitutional rights of gig workers. Surveys conducted by IFAT and the Transport Workers’ Federation highlighted the harsh realities of gig work, with taxi drivers spending long hours in their cars and suffering from health issues due to the demanding nature of their jobs.

Indian aggregators are taking advantage of legal grey areas to exploit gig workers, which can be seen as a form of necrocapitalism. While the gig economy may offer flexibility and income opportunities, it is important to address the exploitative practices that can result in poor working conditions and low wages for gig workers.

India is facing high rates of youth unemployment, with many young workers lacking technical education and vocational certificates. As a result, low-paid gig work becomes the alternative for millions of Indians. The number of people relying on the gig economy is expected to increase significantly in the coming years.

To protect the rights of gig workers and promote humane labor practices, the government needs to intervene. The State of Rajasthan has taken a step in the right direction by enacting the Rajasthan Platform Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill. However, this law falls short in several aspects.

The law does not classify aggregators as employers, which allows them to avoid certain responsibilities towards gig workers. Additionally, the requirement to lock gig worker identification numbers into a single platform can hinder workers who may want to diversify their income. The law also lacks clarity on how social security payments will be divided among aggregators and how they will be disbursed based on need.

Reforms are necessary to ensure that gig workers are protected and receive fair treatment. Gig-worker platforms should be classified as employers, and laws should prohibit aggregators from manipulating working hours, minimum wage rates, and working conditions. As the gig economy continues to grow, it is crucial to enact sweeping reforms to address the challenges faced by gig workers in India.

In conclusion, while the gig economy offers opportunities for income generation and flexibility, it is important to address the exploitative practices that harm gig workers, especially semi-skilled workers. Government intervention and comprehensive reforms are necessary to protect the rights and improve the working conditions of gig workers in India.

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