*** ----> Indian food app rethinks vegetarian fleet on safety fears | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Indian food app rethinks vegetarian fleet on safety fears

AFP | New Delhi    

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

India's top food delivery app walked back plans Wednesday to start a dedicated vegetarian fleet on fears it could jeopardise the safety of its drivers and put customers at risk of eviction.

Food consumption is deeply political in India, where many practising Hindus maintain that a vegetarian diet is necessary to maintain "purity".

Some residential associations in India will only lease to people who say they are vegetarian, and Hindu activist groups have in the past forcefully demanded the closure of restaurants serving meat during religious festivals.

Many Hindus at the top of the faith's rigid caste hierarchy also avoid eating at restaurants that serve meat, even if vegetarian alternatives are offered.

Zomato, the most successful platform for home food deliveries, announced plans Tuesday to cater to that market by rolling out a separate and strictly meat-free service.

The fleet was to be easily identifiable with its motorbike riders wearing green uniforms instead of Zomato's usual red corporate livery.

But the company revised the plans a day later after an online backlash, with founder and chief executive Deepinder Goyal admitting the company had failed to think through the safety implications.

Goyal said that having a separate colour-coded fleet risked having drivers get into altercations in residential areas that maintained a de facto vegetarian policy.

"Our riders' physical safety is of paramount importance to us," he wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

"We now realise that even some of our customers could get into trouble with their landlords, and that would not be a nice thing if that happened because of us," he added.

"While we are going to continue to have a fleet for vegetarians, we have decided to remove the on-ground segregation of this fleet on the ground using the colour green."

Goyal's announcement of the new fleet was roundly criticised on social media with many warning it risked entrenching food-based discrimination.

One user warned the new colour-coded system risked outing Zomato customers as covert meat-eaters, potentially upsetting their landlords.

"You know many tenants in societies and stand alone houses don't disclose to landlords they eat meat," the user wrote in reply to the scheme's announcement.

Nearly 40 percent of Indians abstain from eating meat according to a Pew survey -- by far the highest rate out of any country.