Delhi Government ‘bans’ Uber operations in the capital

The New Delhi Government has banned Uber from operating in the national capital after a cab driver with the company raped a woman passenger over the weekend.

"The services of Uber have been blacklisted. We have just issued an order saying Uber's activities stand banned in Delhi," The Economic Times quoted Satish Mathur, Special Commissioner of Delhi Transport Department, as saying.

While Uber came into the spotlight because of the criminal incident, the ban itself is because of flouting permit laws. According to Mathur, Uber has been flouting rules by offering its riders taxis with All-India permits, which legally cannot ply point-to-point within Delhi.

According to Radio Taxi Scheme, 2006, applicable in Delhi, every radio cab operator is supposed to be a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956, or a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. Also the licensee company must have adequate parking space for all its fleet and minimum office space of 1000 sq. ft for facilitating the control room with a must of 10 telephone lines. The minimum fleet size per license is 500 motor cabs and the vehicles must be fitted with GPS based tracking devices (people can argue these to be the smartphones) in the fleet. Uber is not considered to be a radio cab operator but an app connecting passengers to available drivers. It’s high time, Government administrative officials sit down to formulate newer set of rules for these emerging services. Uber has been escaping these legal battles on the pretext of it not being a radio cab operator.

Earlier today, CEO Travis Kalanick  on Uber’s blog hinted that the lack of a background checking mechanism in India may have been the reason for such a lapse.

What happened over the weekend in New Delhi is horrific. Our entire team’s hearts go out to the victim of this despicable crime. We will do everything, I repeat, everything to help bring this perpetrator to justice and to support the victim and her family in her recovery.

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.

What Travis didn't mention is the fact that the cab wasn't being tracked real time - an eye opener to all commuters. In this case, if the cab wasn't traceable for even 5 mins, Uber could have tried to get in touch with the driver or should have employed some measures to track it. This is definitely not how one would expect a  $40 billion dollar valued company to deal with this issue.

Uber and other online taxi services are in a race to raise investments and scale up opereations, and this negligence could have been the result of 'too much too soon.' These services are focusing on getting more users and drivers on board but then they are easily neglecting the most important aspect of this entire system - safety.

Such horrific incidents need to be condemned but it's also time for every commuter to take responsibility and bring a change in this ‘loop-holed’ system.

These incidents shouldn’t just phase out with time and be mere events in memory lanes; they should be taken seriously and addressed with all the best solutions available.

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