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Suggested safety practice for women folk engaging cabs/ auto's

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A woman in Delhi was raped on Friday allegedly by a taxi driver who is now missing. - - - The woman in her complaint said that after getting into the cab last night, she fell asleep and woke up to find the car parked at a secluded spot. The driver then allegedly raped her. She told the police that the driver then dropped her near her home in north Delhi after threatening to kill her if she spoke of the matter to anybody. "The woman clicked a photograph of the car's number plate and then made a PCR call to report the incident," a police officer said.
 
When an Uber driver is requested via its app, the user is shown a photo of the driver along with his phone number when he is en route. In this case, the suspect's phone was allegedly not registered in his own name. Uber uses GPS installed on drivers' phones to track their locations, but the driver had switched off his phone. 
 
For the full text of the NDTV report, click here
 
With the fare charged by the new-age cabs becoming comparable to what is charged by the auto, one had begun to patronise them more and more in place of the auto. And, as for the women folk, the additional incentive were the safety aspects, in the belief that they had fool-proof driver back-ground check as also vehicle tracking systems in place. This unfortunate incident has exposed the gaps, and thereby lowered their credibility. One, however, hopes that the lessons have been learned, and that the systems will be revamped to ensure that such mishaps do not recurr in future. 
 
Going by the report "the woman clicked a photograph of the car's number plate and then made a PCR call to report the incident". Now, supposing the woman had taken the picture before boarding the cab, and in full view of the driver (and may be "watsapped" it to her next of kin), one can perhaps be reasonably sure that the driver wouldn't have dared to do what he did. 
 
As such, perhaps that's what all women need to do in future. And, in order that the driver lot do not take offence to the practice, perhaps the city Police Commissioner can issue a formal open statement advising women passengers to do so, may be citing the Delhi incident.
 
Either way, I am going to be suggesting to the women folk in my family to adopt the practice right away, and if a driver takes offence, to say thank you and walk away. 
 
Muralidhar Rao

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murali772's picture

cabs still a far safer option

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On Monday, online taxi booking services said police verification was a necessary step before drivers could enrol with them.
 
Siddhartha Pahwa, Group Chief Excutive Officer (CEO), Meru Cabs, said address verification was also done with the help of a registered post sent to the driver’s address. “Meru keeps biometric records of drivers, besides their licences and car documents. Each driver has to undergo four days of training to deal with women passengers at the Meru Training Academy,” he told Express. Drivers also go through refresher courses every six months. The company uses technology to send location updates to trusted contacts every 15 minutes. An emergency button on its app can be used to send out an alarm to trusted contacts.
 
Anand Subramanian, Marketing Communication Director for Ola Cabs, said drivers using its platform passed a “stringent compliance check.” Each ride is tracked and records maintained. “Every customer has the option of sharing ride details in real-time with loved ones. We also have a 24/7 call centre that addresses customers’ concerns in real-time,” he said.
 
Ola relies on the smartphone to keep track of cabs. Subramaniam said, “In the light of the Delhi incident, we are working on creating an additional layer of GPS tracking in all cabs.
 
For the full text of the report in the New Indian Express, click here
 
In my opening post, I had expressed the hope that, resulting out of this unfortunate incident, the cab operators will learn their lessons and revamp their systems to ensure near total safety for passengers in future. Going by the statements issued by their chiefs, it does look like it is indeed happening. 
 
Either way, it's a far safer (and now, cheaper too) option than the auto, where you have checks only by the Transport Department, which is as good or bad as not having any at all. But, instead of looking inwards to correct their own systems, the Transport Department is wont to use the opportunity to tighten up their licence-permit-inspection raaj, and make life difficult for the cab operators, and thereby the public (more specifically women and senior citizen) who had begun patronising these services in a big way and liking it big too. We have already seen that in the form of ban on "Uber". One wonders if it'll end there. 
 
Muralidhar Rao
Promod Kapur's picture

CABS STILL A FAR SAFER OPTION

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I beleive no matter how many safeguards one may want to put in writing,in law or by means of  orders/training, and both are indeed very necessary and desirable, ultimately crime is committed by a person with criminal intent. That is the bottom line. If more and more people are taking undue advantage of the system or of a particular situation that places a person, particularly women  in a vulnerable position, then it is both a failure of the system as well as that of the individuals who believe that they will/can get away unchallenged and unscathed. This means there is little emphasis on both implementation and enforcement of the rules and laws on one side but we as individuals also carry a certain responsibility. Clearly therefore the onus of changing this situation lies both on the enforcement agency as well as on the individual attitudes. While it is easy to find a scapegoat quoting one violation among a myriad of rules that one may not even be aware of because he has got the permit under some influence, the problem can not be remedied merely by changing rules or making public statements and street shows. It is a tough call to change the mindset of people long used to 'fixing' work, but a start has to be made somewhere and that somewhere is here and the time is now. Policy making and implementation structure needs a complete look over. It also can not happen if left only to bureaucrats and police or any department, unless there is a cooperation and active participation by simple people like you and me. As a start, we as users also have a responsibilty that we (particularly ladies) unwittingly dont get into a situation whereby we become vulnerable. Changing lfestyles in urban areas particularly of those who have access and means to adopting hues of western culture have unfortunately not addressed the plane truth that those who provide us services, generally are at a different level of transition and are not fully in sync - not yet, with the fast changing cultural scene in metros.

But there may also lie an opportunity here for the young unemployed, not so well academically conversed women to learn driving and perhaps the state can encourage and promote through a special programme setting up a 'Ladies Driven' cab service as an enterprise to cater to the millions of ladies working in service sector establishments. Driving is not a skill that requires any extraordinary abilities or academic qualifications beyond basics, and perhaps the state can engage with IT/ ITES/Financial institutions and other companies to patronise such  enterprises in all metro cities for use by their female staff. Such a service could also be available 'on call' by unaccompanied ladies in any situation.

IS THE DEPARTMENT/MINISTRY LOOKING AFTER WOMENS' RIGHTS AND EMPOERMENT LISTENING ?

But as an introspective exercise, if a lady is partying hard till late evening and then goes to sleep in a car whose driver she has never known and is a complete stranger, is not what an alert person would do, even if the stringest of rules and laws are in place. A crime has been committed by an errant individual, he has betrayed the trust of a person and this deviant behaviour is inexcusable, deserves the stingest of punishments, the agency which has provided the srvice is also blameworthy, but these are all after the event comments/outrage. There is also a lesson to be learnt by all future users, particularly women.

murali772's picture

The mistake Uber committed

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So is Uber not to blame here at all? Well, no. There is one mistake they did and there is a lot to learn from it. And that is they relied on the government approval system to enrol a driver. A character certificate from the police and a commercial driving license as the backing documents to hire a driver may be okay in other countries. However, in India, such things are easily arranged with a modest bribe or jugaad
 
For the full text of the column by Chetan Bhagat in the ToI, click here.
 
Very clearly, police verification records, RTO's driving licence records and vehicle registration records, as much as BBMP's property tax records (check here), Election Commission's voter lists (check here), in fact, records of most government set-ups, are all plain jugaads.
 
And, particularly given the current security scenario, the country can't afford to let it remain the same way any longer.
 
As such, it's high time they all switched to engaging professional set-ups, quite like the Passport department has engaged TCS for all its back-end work, and IT department has like-wise tied-up with Infosys. 
 
Muralidhar Rao
kbsyed61's picture

Patches won't work!

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Murali,

Just because Tata lend some help in passport services is not a measure of 100% success. Here is an report from ground on the reality.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/447807/agony-continues.html

you can't have system that are designed to ration services? Which clearly means demand surpassing the supply, clear pathways to bribery, recommendations for out of turn favors. Not sure what did Tata helped MEA with? Rationing too?

 

blrpraj's picture

a few thoughts

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I think it is time to think differently. Cab companies need to examine the option of cabs driven by women taxi drivers along with an armed woman escort for use by women passengers. This could be one option made available for women who want to avail of this facility.

Having said that; safety of women is very much a socio cultural problem that has to be tackled at the grassroots level. Every country is it's share of issues; including the US for example which has a gun violence issue arising from the prevalent gun culture. Likewise, India has a women safety issue unlike what i have seen in my travels to developed countries like Canada, UK, Japan and even here in the US.  In fact UK and US also don't come close to the overall safety levels in Japan where one could walk around and board the subway even in the heart of Tokyo at 10 or 11pm in the night. So, culturally, we Indians come way down in the list when it comes to treating fellow human beings (especially women) with respect and dignity, which has to change. Someone reading this refuses to believe that? Then please look around, and see how many incidents of harrasment and eve teasing go on.

 

murali772's picture

MEA largely to blame

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Syedbhai - The "Passport Seva Kendra" issues cited by you are very much there. Just last week, I experienced a lot of it myself, when I went to the one at "Sai Arcade" for renewal of my wife's passport. As soon as the job is done, I'll post a full report on the experience.
 
But, most of the problems relate to the functions coming under the MEA. The front office is particularly pathetic.
 
The fact of the matter is that very little of the work has actually been outsourced to TCS, unlike say, the British visa processing in Bangalore, etc, where there are may be a handful of British government officials at best, conducting just the final interview and affixing their signatures.
 
As such, what we need to ask perhaps is why more of the work, to begin with the front office, hasn;t been outsourced yet. 
 
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Transport Dept's posturings

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Transport Department officials raided the premises of taxi aggregator Taxi For Sure on Tuesday and directed it to immediately stop booking services till the company registers with the Regional Transport Authority. The raid comes a day after the premises of Uber, another aggregator service, was raided and the service banned. Joint Commissioner Narendra Holkar, along with other officials, raided the office in JP Nagar 2nd phase around 2.30 pm and examined the company’s registration and the details of its active drivers.
 
Officials of the company were unable to answer the questions to the satisfaction of the authorities and as a result, the order to stop services was issued on the spot.  “An aggregator also requires a licence. What you are doing is illegal and wrong. Did you even approach the RTA to understand what steps to take?” asked an irate Holkar.
 
- - - - Speaking to reporters after the raid, co-founder Aprameya Radhakrishna said, “We will work with the government and take the necessary steps. We will get a clarification and move forward.” The company believes that since it is a technology services provider which does not own the cabs it operates, there was no need for it to register with the RTA. However, in the past, police and the RTA have made it clear that aggregators would have to register as well.
 
For the full text of the report in the New Indian Express, click here
 
TaxiForSure, Uber, etc are not too different from MakeMyTrip.com, RedBus.com, BookMyShow.com, etc (as also KarnatakaMobileOne - check this), who have been around from long now, and have likewise been offering aggregation of the services of the service providers in their respective fields. I very much doubt if MakeMyTrip is registered with DGCA, RedBus with Transport Dept, or BookMyShow with whoever. Even if they attempt to, do the respective regulatory agencies (rather, controlling agencies as they function now) have a process in place for the purpose, these being the kind of services they hadn't quite envisaged when their mandates where drawn up, besides their being too lazy to update them in tune with the advances taking place in the respective fields?
 
As such, all that the Transport Dept lot are upto, very likely, is plain posturing, essentially to deflect away any blame that may fall on them due to inadequacies/ incapacities in their own systems. 
 
Outsourcing of many of their back-end jobs to professional agencies, which can then be used by the likes of TaxiForSure, Uber, etc, is very clearly the need of the hour. 
 
 
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Put Uber to good use

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In a bid to have its suspension lifted by various state govts across India, Uber released a statement on Saturday promising safer trips and “going above and beyond required government verification” while performing background checks. The ride-sharing app company plans to introduce enhanced police and document verification, stringent background checks, in-app safety features and a dedicated customer support center. - - - - “At Uber the safety of our riders and drivers is our highest priority. We understand that best in class safety must be a constant endeavour and our commitment to our community means we work tirelessly to set the standard around the world. Since the recent tragic event in India, we have received a lot of feedback and suggestions. “We are rolling out the first new safety features and initiatives designed specifically for India with many more to come. We are ready to show you that we have heard our community and are back stronger and better to get India moving again safely,” said Allen Penn, Head of Asia Operations, Uber Technologies. 
 
For the full text of the report in the New Indian Express, click here.
 
Eventually, I guess, their records could become even more reliable than those of the government agencies. Perhaps the government agencies could then even think of outsourcing some of their back-end works to these people. That can be a positive outcome of all of what happened.
 
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

The best way to discipline the auto/ cab lot

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A tale of assault posted by a woman on Facebook has thrown the focus on violence by auto drivers again. While most incidents include threats of violence, this woman was reportedly hit four times by an irate auto driver after she asked him why he was asking for Rs 30 over the meter fare. Divya Sharma, who works for a multimedia company and wrote about her experience on Thursday, drew the attention of several hundred Facebook users who left scathing comments. - - - - Faced with outrage, Ola promptly said it had sacked the driver. “We have terminated the said driver from the Ola platform. Though this incident did not happen on a ride booked through the Ola app, we have zero tolerance for such behaviour,” it said. Ola also said it was working with the customer “to share all driver information, so as to help her report this incident to the authorities”.
 
For the full text of the report in the New Indian Express, click here.
 
Ultimately, far more than any of the doings of the Transport Dept, which have been half-hearted at best, it's going to be acts of the aggregators, like Ola (and even the chastened Uber), that's going to be disciplining the auto (as also cab) drivers, whether in the matter of display of number plates (check here), or their otherwise recalcitrant ways (discussed at length here). They are indeed a boon, particularly for women and senior citizens, and therefore need to be facilitated in every way possible.
 
 
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

the mafia fight-back

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Taxi drivers at Mangalore International Airport (MIA) allegedly abused and threatened a woman passenger for booking an Ola Cab instead of hiring their taxi.

For the full text of the report in the New Indian Express, click here.

Notwithstanding the odd mishaps involving Uber cabs in Delhi, taxi aggregator services are largely seen as a welcome change compared to the earlier autorickshaw-taxi mafia regime, particularly by women and senior citizens. Simltaneously, it has also proved beneficial to those of the drivers who are prepared to put in that bit of extra effort, as also to the state in the form of the service tax accruing to it, which was not quite the case earlier.

In such a scenario, one would have expected the state to facilitate the aggregators in every possible way. On the other hand, what we see, is quite the opposite.

The reasons are not too far to seek. Very plainly, the auto-rickshaw/ taxi operators, so far, formed the vote banks of the local neta's, who led the whole mafia confederation controlling the entire regime, which often included even the RTO and the police lot. The aggregators coming into the picture has, on the other hand, brought in a regime of accountability, which is beginning to adversely affect the mafia operations, and hence the fight back. What is happening in Mangaluru, as such, is of a piece with what is happening in Delhi too, with AAP neta's there using every possible excuse to cancel the licenses of the aggregators, so as to benefit the auto-rickshaw lot. To Bengaluru's credit, it may be stated, that it's evolving now, even if slowly, with the mafioso beginning to realise that their game cannot carry on for too long.

Moral of the story plainly is that it's time the political leadership realised that the days of neta-giri, through mafia operations, are more or less over, and if they don't change their ways in tune with the times, they may find themselves in the doldrums.

Muralidhar Rao

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