It seemed cool to rely on Uber and hail a taxi at the click of a finger thanks to their mobile app on your smartphone, and join the bandwagon of ‘Uber people’, rather than call a regular taxi or go for the public transport. All you had to do was download the app, key in your credit card or debit card details and you are all set to hail an Uber cab whenever you want, no matter which location you are in. What’s more, there was no long queue or hassle of haggling for the right fare. So whichever part of the world you were in, Uber was the way ahead to reach any destination.
When did things change?
Things changed with the Delhi rape case where a driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, was caught for raping a passenger who hailed the cab on December 5 after exiting a party and threatening to kill the executive if she reported the matter. Then comes another shock. The driver was a serial offender who had molested several women in the past and was out on bail for sexually assaulting a woman.
So Uber was no longer the new cool. How can a responsible global company like Uber not have adequate background checks of drivers who are to ferry passengers to safety? The result! One mistake has cost Uber a scarred reputation with operations ceasing to exist in New Delhi, Karnataka and Maharashtra being some States. It is something that needs to be done by the Government to let Uber and other companies like theirs, to send out the message that responsibility is a heavy word that can cost someone their life. In the Delhi rape case, it could have been the rape victim who could have been killed.
On December 6 a woman was allegedly kidnapped and raped in Boston in the USA. He had passed the background screening test conducted by Uber and later pleaded not guilty in a Cambridge district court.
What is the solution?
Uber currently is in an overhaul mode, realigning and making adequate security arrangements to provide a seamless service to passengers which includes a strict screening process of its drivers across the world, more so Delhi and other cities of India. Uber’s reputation in India is marred and it will take a long time to restore the confidence of the people who will think twice before hailing an Uber cab.
However, Uber was a convenient mode of transportation even in the cities where it has been banned and there are some people who will still want to hail an Uber cab given a chance, but exercise caution especially if it is in the wee hours of the morning. But Uber will lose out on women travelers who felt Uber was a safe mode of transportation if they were stranded anywhere. To restore their confidence will take more than just a foolproof system of a background check of drivers to get them to hail a Uber cab.
Does this stop crimes from taking place? Yes and no. Uber can guarantee a foolproof system, but one can never be sure. The same theory would go for public transportation like a regular taxi or autorickshaw hailed by a woman passenger anytime of the day where travelling is at her own risk. A woman always has to be extra careful about her safety especially if she is travelling alone. This would hold true primarily in a metro city like Delhi termed unsafe for women. So whether it is an Uber taxi, a radio cab or other modes of transportation, safety is a relative term.
Taking a cue on safety measures, Ola cabs is stepping up their security by including more women drivers to take the wheel in their fleet of cars. This will certainly help women to be more at ease while travelling.
Uber is still cool in some places
Uber taxis have not been banned in West Bengal which is a relief to Hasan, a professional from Mumbai visiting Kolkata on work who hailed an Uber taxi at 12:30 am and was more than relieved Uber was available. “Uber was a saviour in Kolkata. I have used Uber taxis frequently in Mumbai and it is unfortunate that Uber taxies have been banned following the rape incident in Delhi. It would be good to have Uber taxis back on the streets,” he said. While Kolkata does not have too many Uber taxis running compared to other metro cities, it is still a boon for some like Hasan. For some people travelling across the globe, Uber makes complete sense.
But when safety is the primary issue that guarantees a revenue churner, what will it take for Uber to convince the Central and State Governments in India that their fleet of taxis can come back to ferry the ‘Uber’ cool?