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Uber overreaction

The aftershocks generated by the alleged rape of a 25-year-old woman by a cab driver on Friday night provoked Delhi government on Monday to ban the ride-sharing service, Uber, as well as order all app-based cab service providers to go off the roads in the Capital. This is expected to create major inconvenience for commuters.

In what appears to be a knee-jerk reaction, the transport department of Delhi government came out with a notification that said only six cab services – Easy Cab, Mega Cab, Meru Cab, Chanson Cab, Yo Cab and Air Cab – had the licence to operate radio taxis. The notification was issued soon after Uber had been banned.

 

A rough estimate showed that over 20 cab services – including the popular Taxi-for-Sure, Ola, Quick Cabs, Delhi Cab, Wyn and Cosy, besides Uber – may have to stop operations. This would also mean that thousands of drivers will be out of work. Uber alone is estimated to have had 3,000 drivers on its roster.

Given that the Nirbhaya case proved to be very costly for the then Congress government in Delhi, especially as it was tardy in its response to the heinous crime, this time the BJP-led Union government appeared to be taking no chances. The lieutenant governor is learnt to have directed the transport department to throw the book at Uber and other app-based cab services.

Uber has also been slapped with an FIR by Delhi Police for negligent conduct and cheating.
Uber claimed to provide safe cabs – a claim that proved untrue. The charges against Uber came after hours of questioning of company officials who said that they didn’t do any background checks themselves and relied on their partners and Delhi Police to do the verification.

Uber works on the aggregator model, which is also followed by companies like Ola Cabs and Taxi-for-Sure, to run cab booking services without actually having any driver on its rolls, unlike private taxi operators. “They don’t have drivers on their rolls or taxis of their own. They operate through a network of drivers with valid licences or operators who own cars,” explained a transport official.

The transport department had earlier in the day cancelled the driving licence of Shiv Kumar Yadav, the man who allegedly raped the financial analyst. The department also cancelled the registration of the DZire cab used for the crime and the all India permit held by Yadav.

Confirming the blacklisting of Uber, special commissioner (transport) Kuldeep Gangar said, “Uber misled the commuter about the nature of the taxi service offered…the transport department has banned all activities relating to providing any transport service by www.uber.com with immediate effect.” For the others too, the ban began with immediate effect. “Any taxi service providing such services without a licence will be prosecuted,” the department said.

Uber is not registered as a radio taxi company with the transport department. Delhi government allows radio taxis to operate in the city, provided they register and get a permit from the transport department to ply in the city. Tourist taxis need a permit as well as an all-India taxi permit to ply outside Delhi. Uber had neither.

Yadav, who had the licence and permit, didn’t have a public service vehicle (PSV) badge, said Gangar, though Yadav claimed that the Ambedkar Nagar police station had issued him a certificate giving his residential address and attesting that there are no criminal charges against him. This, the cops claimed, is a fake.

Under the rules, a radio taxi operator can offer services only if it has vehicles that are fitted with a GPS device and have verified the credentials of the driver, including the driving licence and PSV badge. Post the Nirbhaya incident in 2012, the Delhi government had made it mandatory to have GPS fitted in all commercial vehicles, which is yet to be implemented by the transport department.

Interestingly, the transport department – despite the fact that online apps and services like Uber are extremely popular – claims not to have any category in its rules for such a service. Senior officials in the transport department said the government had not formulated any guidelines for online companies that provide taxi services by merely connecting the client with the driver. “We will look into the matter now,” added the official. The department says it will work on framing guidelines and permits for such services.

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