Friday, December 12, 2014


The recent Uber Taxi rape case has raised eyebrows of the people at the helm of affairs in India. There is no blinking to the fact that Uber has had a rather controversial past in various countries. What comes as a shock is honorable Home Minister’s statement in the parliament where he said that he has asked states to ban all web based cab services! This is a typical knee jerk reaction of the Indian political class to any situation which gets highlighted in the mainstream media.

Yashna Shree, a Mumbai based journalist says, “By that logic buses should have been banned back in December 2012.” This comes as a logical remark from a young citizen of this country. We are not advocating Uber’s case here. But what is important for our politicians to realize is that it is not technology which needs to be blamed. It is the system which needs an urgent attention.

Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick while offering his condolences to the victim and offering his support to Indian government, said something very important. He said that clear background checks are currently absent in India’s commercial transportation licensing programs. This, does help Uber to shift onus on the Indian system (which is not flawless!), but cannot be a reason for Uber to expect any leniency from the law. At the same time, this must also be a time for us to critically revisit our own system in a city like Delhi which has been known for heinous incidents relating to women safety.

The small state of Delhi has recently seen a major political party lose election because women safety was made a big issue by other political parties. Aam Aadmi Party, which claims to champion the cause of women safety in Delhi has also been criticized on incident where one of its ministers in erstwhile government, Somnath Bharti, raided a house in Khidki Extension area, without taking the police in full confidence. Zeeshan Khan, a social activist from Delhi says, “Irrespective of political parties in power situation relating to women safety will be compromised. Even Aam Admi Party in their most recent radio campaign says that they will put CCTV camera on every street of Delhi, so that criminals are put behind the bars. This means there will be incidents for sure! Nobody is really interested in making sure that Delhi becomes a crime free zone.”

To say that banning cab providers is the ultimate solution will not be the right way forward. If there are no organized cab providers then Delhi will have to be dependent on unorganized cabs, who do not have proper rate chart, lack accountability,and we will never be sure if the cab drivers are verified or not. In case of Uber cab incident, at least we have an organization which needs to be questioned and make sure that not only the rapist Shiv Kumar Yadav is made accountable, but an organization as well.

There is no problem with web based cab services. What is important is that Delhi police, and other states, make sure that they have proper GPS in the cab, there is a safety button installed, and most importantly there is a proper accountability by the cab suppliers. In absence of the organized cab services, we will be left with the same drivers and same cabs- without any security measures.

An ideal situation will be when we all use bicycles to commute, but it is too much to expect from a commercial city like Delhi. Till then let out lawmakers and law protectors make sure that we have the safest cab experience.

This article was first published on LokMarg on December 10, 2014

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