Uber ‘amateur taxi’ service banned in New Delhi after rape incident arrest
Mon 8 Dec 2014
Uber, the smartphone-based service which enables otherwise unlicensed drivers to provide on-demand taxi services in major cities around the world, has been dealt the biggest blow against its image in a year which has brought many others. After a complicated hunt at the weekend, Indian police officers arrested an Uber taxi driver on the charge of raping a woman on the evening of Friday 5th December.
The transport department of New Delhi has subsequently banned the service from operating in the city, one of ten in India in which Uber has established itself.
The accused, Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32, is reported to have served seven months awaiting trial for a rape case in 2011, but Yadav claims he was finally acquitted. Police are currently investigating the facts behind the previous charge.
After the alleged incident Yadav fled to his home town of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, about 100 miles from New Delhi, and has now been taken into police custody for three days.
The Times Of India reported yesterday that police had initially detained another man from Mathura in association with the assault, but that the person detained turned out not to be Yadav.
The unidentified alleged victim, an executive with a global tax and advisory service consultancy in Gurgaon, was seeking passage from a party in south Delhi on Friday night to her home in Inderlok, north Delhi, when the crime is said to have taken place. She is variously reported as aged 25-27. The woman used the Uber smartphone service to order a cab home, which arrived at 10.20pm. After falling asleep during the journey, the woman claims that she awoke to find the driver with her in the rear seat, assaulting her. “I tried to push him away and looked around to find the car at a desolate spot. He slapped me a few times and scratched me on the face and neck during the scuffle. When I tried to scream, he pressed my mouth and threatened to kill me.”
It is reported that after the assault the driver disposed of the woman’s smartphone but actually completed the journey, taking her to her home address, and left with violent menaces to the victim not to disclose the incident to anyone, but she reported the crime to Delhi police on Saturday morning
CEO of Uber Travis Kalanick yesterday released a statement via the California-based company’s blog, describing the incident as ‘horrific’, and pledging the company’s support in bringing the perpetrator of the assault to justice.
“We will work with the government to establish clear background checks currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs. We 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 advances to help make New Delhi a safer city for women.”
It is reported that Yadav’s application to become an Uber driver in New Delhi was gravely mishandled – that he was accepted for the scheme despite not having undergone police background verification which would have revealed his seven months in jail between 2010-2011 associated with an accusation of rape; that his car lacked the mandatory GPS system that Uber requirements mandate, but that he substituted that functionality with a downloaded smartphone app; and that he lacked a Delhi Transport Authority driving license, encouraged (though not mandatory) for taxi drivers in the capital city.
Uber has suspended Yadav in the wake of the allegations, and are cooperating with the Indian police on the matter. The company, which has drawn protests from participants in licensed cab schemes in many parts of the world where it operates, has suffered many PR disasters in 2014, including its controversial surveillance policy, its recent objection to India’s requirement for burdensome two-factor payment authentication and a controversial suggestion that its journalistic critics should themselves be investigated, but the Delhi incident would seem to be the most harmful yet.
However the case should be put in the general context of safety issues in unlicensed or casual cabs; in June of 2012 a British judge, Recorder Michael Sayers, QC, presiding over a case of taxi-rape declared that “nobody can travel in minicabs with any degree of assurance or safety.”