What went wrong in the Delhi Uber taxi rape case?

  • Uber taxi driver allegedly rapes a finance executive
  • Claims of safety owing to GPS prove inadequate
  • Commuters taking safety for granted

A 27-year-old finance executive had hired a cab in Gurgaon on Friday night, last week, after having dinner with friends. And she had dozed off for a while before she realised that the taxi stopped at a secluded place. The driver apparently raped her and left her at her place threatening her of dire consequences if she spoke of the incident. Even though police FIR does not mention the cab service, the name of Uber was later revealed in the media. The taxi service released a statement reiterating their focus of safety – We are deeply disturbed by the reported incident. Our thoughts are with the victim. We are actively and fully cooperating with authorities” – Uber tweeted.

In recent times, hiring taxis is being increasingly preferred by people, especially women, not just for convenience they offer. The general belief is that these cab services hire drivers only after checking their credentials and that pre-booking the service will ensure that the service agency is in the know of the pick-up and destination points and is in touch with the commuter and hence the driver is usually well-behaved. And going by the demand for security, the recent additions to the cab services across the country like Uber and Ola claim to have installed a GPS service and hence say they are more secure for women. The cars are indeed tracked by GPS, you can even see it approach you on the map.

However, neither GPS is installed in the car nor is it too difficult to be disabled. Since the cabs like Uber use a phone-based system; just with a little technical knowledge anyone can simply disable it. It is probably just one or two cab services in India that use GPS installed in the car that not just tracks the car but also checks to see if the cab driver is not speeding.

Another important aspect that needs to be considered is the credential of the driver. The usual pre-requisites for hiring a driver for a cab service are a commercial licence, government-issued ID, state permit and commercial insurance. Considering the number of taxi services and the cabs that need drivers across India, it is worth a reflection on what kind of background checking procedures are carried out on the candidates who apply as drivers. And if all claims of safety and reliability are just an eyewash.

Finally the million dollar question is – Are we becoming too careless and taking the claims of safety being made by the cab services on the face value and leaving caution to wind? The answer seems to be yes; what with the kind of incidents that are seeing light on a regular basis.

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