(By Shashidhar KJ & Vikas SN)
Delhi Government is considering cancelling the permission of Uber and scrutinise the permits of all private taxi services, a senior transport department official has told Indian Express.
It has also sent a notice to Uber under the section 161 of CrPC and is considering legal action against the company for failing to run background checks on drivers before onboarding them, reports Reuters.
This follows various security concerns raised against the online cab booking service following an alleged rape of a 27-year old woman by one of the Uber drivers who was part of the company’s recently launched low-cost India-only service UberGO . Some of the issues raised by the Delhi Police include:
– No Verification & the driver had priors: The Delhi Police mentions that Uber hadn’t conducted police verification of the driver. DCP (north) Madhur Verma told The Times of India that the driver did not have a public service verification (PSV) badge or an employer’s verification certificate. Delhi Police also told NDTV that the driver was a repeat offender and had faced rape charges in 2011, something which Uber didn’t check while hiring him.
The first adjective uber uses to describe their service is “Safe” & Their drivers dont go through a background check pic.twitter.com/ENRb4sGgdu
— s0h4m (@s0h4m) December 8, 2014
Update: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has informed in an official blogpost that they will work with the government to establish clear background checks that is currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs. He will also partner closely with the groups “who are leading the way on women’s safety here in New Delhi and around the country” and invest in technology advancements “to help make New Delhi a safer city for women.”
– No live GPS tracking system independent of the phone: Verma noted the only link between the driver and the company was the driver application, which the accused had reportedly deleted from his phone and there was no independent live GPS tracking system in the car, making it more difficult to trace him.
– No driver license and Mobile number registered to someone else: The driver apparently didn’t have a driver’s licence issued by the Delhi Transport Authority and the mobile number listed with the company was registered to a different person, indicating further negligence by the company while taking the details of the driver.
– Police couldn’t find Uber’s office: What’s also strange is that Delhi Police apparently found it difficult to locate Uber’s Delhi office during the investigation, since there was no online records. Verma told Huffington Post India that they had to book a cab through the app, following which they asked the driver to take them to Uber’s Delhi office.
Why Uber is at fault
Historically, taxi services has been unsafe at late nights and this incident could’ve happened on any cab service, but why Uber is at fault is because of its positioning in the country. The company has pitching itself as a safe & secure alternative to taxis and autorickshaws, especially for night rides, since its launch in the Indian market last year, which is why it is unacceptable for the company to overlook or skip important processes like background checks during driver onboarding.
A big part of the reason I take private cabs is I assume they are being monitored and so I am safer. Waiting for an explanation from Uber.
— Rukmini S (@rukmini_shrini) December 7, 2014
No background check of Drivers? That was one bit I was certain Uber is following as a mandate in India. Sad.
— Karan Arora (@KaranArora) December 8, 2014
Every taxi service in the country needs to do a full bkground check on each employee. AGAIN. Drivers & others. & register details w/ police.
— Kaveri (@Mehitabel_Delhi) December 8, 2014
This negligence is probably the factor of over aggressive growth by Uber & other online taxis services who are raising significant investments and are currently engaging in a race to the bottom right now, due to which these companies seem to be focusing only on getting new drivers and skipping important processes during driver onboarding.
A FirstPost report also mentions that these companies were putting the onus of driver verification on the taxi owners and a driver told the publication that he knew of drivers who worked for both Uber and Ola jointly and had backup drivers when they were done with the day.
Another Uber driver told Quartz India that it doesn’t take much to become a Uber driver in New Delhi. He told that they checked his driver license, English speaking skills and told him to submit his license, photos and other documents for verification.
We feel these taxi services should start focusing on putting in security processes and security check while onboarding drivers, without which consumers might start avoiding these services altogether, for the same reason why they had started using these services in the first place.
— Rohin Dharmakumar (@r0h1n) December 7, 2014
P.S. Maybe Uber should also start working on providing better media responses or atleast provide more humane responses.
Incredibly vacuous statement by Uber http://t.co/jMH72lfxvX No details on ‘layers of safeguard’ that the cops have found a hole on?
— Karthik Srinivasan (@beastoftraal) December 7, 2014
Sure, Uber needs better security measures, but you know what it lacks sorely? A better, more credible PR response. — Tushar Kanwar (@2shar) December 7, 2014
Uber’s full statement:
“We became aware of the incident this morning. Safety is Uber’s highest priority and we take situations like this very seriously. We are working with the police as they investigate, and will assist them in any way we can to determine what happened. It is also our policy to immediately suspend a driver’s account following allegations of a serious incident, which we have done. In India, we work with licensed driver-partners to provide a safe transportation option, with layers of safeguards such as driver and vehicle information, and ETA-sharing to ensure there is accountability and traceability of all trips that occur on the Uber platform.”