After the shocking rape of 27 year old finance women in Delhi questions are being raised about how safe are online cabs services for women. The incident brought back the memories of the gruesome Delhi gang rape which had occurred two years ago. Early this year the decomposed body of Esther Anuya a techie employed with TCS was found in suburban Kanjurmarg. The victim had gone missing after she had boarded an autorickshaw from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus. Even though the government had tightened anti-rape laws but crime against women continue to rise across the nation. The Delhi government had banned the operation of Uber and blacklisted it from providing service in the capital.
Often commuters opt for online cab service operators instead of kaali-peeli taxis as it offers them the convenience of booking a cab online. Cabs are better maintained and offer air conditioned services even though its fare is expensive as compared to regular taxis. However, after the Uber cab rape incident many women are worried about their safety while commuting in private cabs.
When AV spoke to women whether they feel safe while hiring online cab services in the aftermath of the Uber cab rape incident here is what they had to say:-
Miss Kiran Sajan a Customer Service Executive, from Mira Road said, “I don’t feel safe while commuting in private cabs especially during the night, be it any mode of transport public or private.”
Mrs. Andrea Fernandes, School Teacher from Borivali said, “If the company offers a private cab facility then I would definitely opt for it. The organisation should undertake drivers’ background verification. Taxis are a strict no-no because they are unreliable. One should use public transport only if people are commuting in it. While hiring private cabs, women should not maintain eye-contact or have conversations with the driver.”
Miss Zoya Salim Khan a student from Mira Road said, “I would opt for public transportation. Today it is unsafe to travel alone as crimes are happening in broad day light.”
Uber cabs, unlike radio taxi fleet services like Meru or Tab cab, do not have mandatory GPS trackers. They do not actually own the vehicles themselves and therefore have limited say in what features the vehicles must possess. Instead they use the smartphone with the installed Uber app, as the tracking device for the vehicle. When it comes to Uber, the vehicles mostly belong to the drivers themselves or to vendors registered with licensed travel firms.
Miss Velancia Gonsalves employed with an airline company from Goregaon said, “I would prefer public transport and won’t hire a private cab while travelling alone. I will always take a companion with me as it has become very unsafe to travel alone nowadays.”
Uber failed to cross check the driver’s mobile number as it was found that the number was not registered under his own name. They did not check the driver’s antecedents as he was imprisoned for seven months for a rape case in 2011. After the rape incident, the driver had deleted the app from his mobile. The only layer of security that the services are presumed to provide in India is because they’re tying up with existing taxi permit holders, which means that the owner of the taxi is presumed to have done a background check on his driver.
Steffi Cardoz, Secretary from Goregaon said, “A woman must be courageous enough to encounter a situation like molestation or rape. Situation will improve if we start taxi and autorickshaw services driven by women drivers. Women will feel safe in other womens’ company.”
Commercial drivers get their badge renewed every year from the transport authority as it does not check with the police for criminal records.
Uber said in a statement that it had suspended the driver following the allegations, in line with company policy, and have provided the authorities with “all relevant details,” such as driver, vehicle and trip information.