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Delhi based women alleges that when she was assaulted in an Uber cab, the emergency response just asked the driver to cancel the ride and left her on an isolated road, endangering her further.
Panic buttons, emergency response, ratings…they have it all but how well does it work and are women completely safe on aggregator cab services? It’s not been a lot of time since Uber promised to make passenger safety a priority, after one of their drivers was charged for raping a female passenger. In response, the company had added the feature of “emergency” but is that feature enough?
Samridhi Sukhija, an IT professional, recently put up a Facebook post highlighting her ordeal on the night of 4th May when she took an Uber and the driver attempted to assault her. Samridhi says that she booked a cab from Dwaraka to Delhi at 8:15 and after 3-4 mins into the ride, the driver requested her to sit in the front, since there was less air in the rear tyre.
After this, she noticed that the driver was continuously swearing on a phone call and brushing his hands against her thigh while changing the gear.
She ignored it at first but then the harassment escalated. Samridhi narrates:
“He started asking personal questions, where do I work, what’s my salary, where am I from. He seemed a guy who gets irritated when not answered. I felt scared. Meanwhile, he felt my thigh multiple times. The area was very secluded to get off of the car. I immediately dialled uber safety support, however, I didn’t speak to them over call since I didn’t know if the driver could understand English or not. I asked them to text me immediately. They sent one message on uber support, I replied saying he is touching me inappropriately and the area is secluded. The driver asked me aggressively “Madam kya kar rhi ho uber app p, meri complaint to nai kar di”. He asked me twice if I am complaining against him. It was scary as hell because I didn’t know what form his anger could have taken.”
In response to such a serious situation, Samridhi says that the Uber emergency service called the driver and asked him to cancel the trip and asked him let the passenger immediately go out of the cab. The driver hence angrily stopped the car and dropped Samridhi in the middle of a secluded road:
“Then what uber team stupidly did is out of my understanding. They called the driver and asked him to end the trip and let me get off of the cab. Driver asked me why should he do that. I said I don’t know what they are talking about. Out of anger, he stopped the car, and as soon as I got off I ran like a cat and crossed the road only to find out that it was a secluded road. The driver ended the trip and got off of the cab. He signalled me from across the road and started coming towards me. I had to run and only after a few minutes he left the spot.”
The entire incident has against raised a question about passenger safety in online cab services. In 2014 Uber driver Shiv Kumar Yadav was arrested for raping a female passenger. Since then, Uber launched new safety guidelines in India. But repeated assault complaints clearly show that emergency assistance and safety policies are not put to proper use.
The way the emergency team behaved in this incident can certainly not be considered sufficient. It appeared to her that their primary interest was ensuring that if something happened, it did not happen in an Uber. Hence they made a woman leave the cab at such an odd hour of the night.
According to Samridhi, the company didn’t even care to ensure that she reached home safely. She adds, “Who knows what could have happened after the trip ended. The only way uber could locate me was by tracking my location, was also gone. I realized they just wanted to get rid of the situation. My safety was not at all of their concern. They didn’t care where was I or if I had taken any cab afterwards or if I had reached home or not, If the driver further harmed me or not.”
This entire incident has again raised a few questions:
Why can’t online cab services have a better protocol in place for such situations?
What are companies doing towards hiring safer drivers?
Certainly, in such an environment, these questions are something that need a lot more attention from cab aggregators.
Image via nipsa.com, used for representational purposes
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