Horror on Wheels: Still want to drive with it?

 

We would all agree that private cab companies have definitely made our lives a lot more easier than before. “Any time. Any place. Any location. And the cab will be there in some time.” Such companies provide luxury and semi luxury cabs at very reasonable and affordable prices in comparison to the government owned cab companies and agencies. Hence it becomes important to note how and why such cab companies exist without any track record and license. The government acts lazily while inquiring about such companies which is not a new thing for us and people in general think about their convenience and the fact that these cabs are lighter on the pocket. Most firms these days also hire cabs to escort their employees by tying up with such cab companies since it is beneficial and cheaper than giving travel allowances to the employees individually. With no other public transport facility which runs 24/7, such cabs have flourished over the years and have benefited people, specially women because women feel relatively safer while travelling via such cabs since these companies claim to provide the ‘safest’ rides on the road. 

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Yet again, ‘another’ rape incident in New Delhi on December 5, 2014 not only shook the capital with horror but also raised several questions about the functioning of the private cab companies which are running in the capital without any obstruction and how they defy to follow the rules setup by the government. Who is permitting these “service providers” to operate freely in the country without complying to the basic norms of  security verification, background check and GPS service? The incident occurred on the night of 5th December when a 27 year old finance company professional hired a cab via Uber to return home from a dinner party in Gurgaon to her house in Inderlok area. The woman was thrashed when she tried to raise an alarm and was raped inside the cab. She was later let off after being threatened by the driver. After the lady lodged an FIR at the nearest police station, she was sent for a medical examination. A case has been registered at the Sarai Rohilla police station under Section 376 (punishment for rape), Section 323 (voluntarily hurt someone) and Section 503 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.

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How to drive with Uber? One out of many in the market!

Uber has no proper office in Delhi and sources state that the company only has 5-6 employees who control over 400 cabs in Delhi. The company claims to be a user friendly platform for unemployed drivers who can easily sign up through their email ids, password and mobile number. Uber takes a 15% commission from every payment the drivers receive. The only requirement is the commercial taxi driving license and insurance, after which the drivers are called for an interview. What happens in the interview and how authentic it is, is still a mystery! The site clearly states that it is a request tool and not a transportation career.

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Story so far:

The accused driver was arrested from Mathura where the police officials also later lodged an FIR against the company. The police officials have now decided to question the Uber officials where it has been given a time of 20 days to file a charge sheet. The Reserve Bank of India had earlier questioned Uber on the account of its cashless credit card payment and had given it a 30th November deadline. However, not much was done in this case. Isn’t it shocking that even with the RBI involved in a case not much was done to investigate the transactions with no proper record of money?

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The biggest flaw which emerged during the whole investigation was the unavailability of a GPS unit inside the cab making it difficult to track the cab down in case of an emergency. The GPS is however configured in the cellphone, which once switched off makes it difficult to track down the cab. Has anyone ever considered about the GPS status in the cabs of other cab companies? Has the government ever tried to organize a regular control check on the GPS status  in all the cabs which run in the country?

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Giving it a thought:

Imagine what a normal background ‘routine’ check on the driver would have done? Would have probably prevented this incident and may be more! The accused Shiv Kumar Yadav has been previously arrested for rape in 2011 where he spent seven months in Tihar jail but was later acquitted because of unknown reasons. His records state his “disturbing pattern of assaulting women” (Source- NDTV). Also, a woman reported the disturbing behaviour of the driver on 26th November but nothing was done by the company the woman worked in.
In the period when ‘Knowing the Employee’ is a necessity, Uber did not stick to the norms and regulations which were required at the basic level to function as an independent company.

The biggest flaw which emerged because of the Uber case was the difficulty the government faces in controlling the cab companies which function through the virtual world. The main problem faced is that these cabs have not been registered in the transport department because of which no true records are available to keep a track of such vehicles.

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Instead of protesting against and outraging at just one Cab Company or listening to people who have their own interests at hand, we need to question the systematic failures which the rape incident has raised. However, Uber has earlier been accused of irresponsible behaviour and weak tracking record in the United Stated of America. In 2014, an Uber driver was held for killing a 6 year old girl because of his reckless driving. The company was unable to discover the flaw in its background check which led to the death of an innocent child.

What the Uber Officials had to say?
Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber stated, “What happened over the weekend in New Delhi is horrific. Our entire team’s hearts go out to the victim of this despicable crime. We will do everything, I repeat, everything to help bring this perpetrator to justice and to support the victim and her family in her recovery.”
An anonymous message from the company was also sent to all drivers to stay together in the time of such crisis.

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Actions which have been taken till now?
The State government banned Uber and all its activities in the state. Even the app available on all multimedia phones shows an error (location service disabled) in case one tries to use it. Was the decision of a ban appropriate at this point of time when proper concrete solutions are required rather than simply turning a blind eye to the problem? Banning anything has never been and will never be solution!

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Nitin Gadkari, the Union Transport Minister stated how the decision to ban Uber was a wrong decision since it does not offer a solution to the problem within the large framework. Gadkari talked about the 30% fake licenses issued in India and how people often misuse them for criminal activities. He gave an example of the UK government (e-gov) and how all the data is registered in one place which makes it easy to track the record of all the cab drivers.
This proves how the same problem which Uber faces at the present time can be faced by any other company since they run without any records and background checks. Not only does this highlight the lack of proper governance but also the lack of laws in the country which are required to prevent crimes in the society at the multiple levels. The licensing act needs to be regulated since it has its own flaws and this case highlighted how there is a black market of fake licenses which runs openly since the government even over such a long period has not been able to control it.  Also, the failure of the media has been highlighted in the proceedings of this case since it blamed Uber for the rape which took place on the night of 5th December. The media outrageously thrashed Uber throughout rather than focusing on the government laws, policies and the flaws which often lead to such crimes.

Questions raised but still remain unanswered:

Some of the ‘intellectual souls’ in our society partially believe that uneducated migrants from the lower section of the society are the main problem. People are blinded by the glitterati of the big cities and imagine to ‘make it new’ for themselves. However, the lack of education only makes women objects in front of these men. But what will education do when the psyche is responsible for such incidents? We need to question such questions and debates people engage in only to present themselves in the positive light.

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In such a time when everyone should be united, there are still people and political parties who are using this situation for their vote bank politics. This case highlighted the lack in our system and that we need an efficient data registration system and a tracking portal which makes it easier for the officials to track down people in case of an emergency (like in this case) so that nobody gets away after committing any kind of crime. Also, a time to time background check should be done on people and regulated at certain intervals so that the records are kept up to date and no problem surfaces in any kind of situation.

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The horror of the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case repeated itself and will continue to do so because India is in the same position where it was 2 years ago. Even though there were certain changes made for the security of women, they were either easily forgotten or not implemented well. Not forgetting that the rape of minors has not moved the government to function along with the rules and norms it has itself set up for others to follow. The mass movement slowly lost its hold and soon broke into pieces where the wounds have still not healed.  With time where women had come to rely on the private cab services for travelling late at night because of no other available public transport facility, this incident has again sent them back to their own shell.

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When will women be free to travel safely no matter what time it is? When will the flaws in the acts and the laws of the country be efficient enough to not lead to such criminal activities? This time it was Uber, it can be any other company the next time.These are the questions which we need to ask ourselves rather than outraging at one private company. The fissures in the system need to be explored because only then will we be able to even think of a country which develops and learns from its mistakes. Each small action and step matters in the hope a better society . Let us make this world a better place to live in.

 

 

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