NIRBHAYA REDUX – “UBER” DISGRACE & THE THEATRE OF THE ABSURD!!!

Within two years of the “Nirbhaya” smear, a cab driver  perpetrates heinous rape in the heart of the National Capital. What follows is a study in absurdity and in the dock are all those who are now making all the noises – not necessarily the right ones!

5th December 2014, New Delhi, a 27 year old finance executive boards a taxi, provided through the Uber App and before the trip’s over her world has disastrously transformed. The driver rapes her en route and drives off!

The impunity with which Shiv Kumar Yadav,the alleged perpetrator, diverted from the designated route and committed the crime raises some qestions.

Was there a GPS tracking the cab? Was Uber monitoring the trip? Was Yadav’s criminal record checked? Do enforcement regulations exist?

The answer to all of these queries is exactly what you feared – No! Yadav had a GPS enabled and company provided I phone which he switched off after picking up the passenger. Since Uber ride share services in India do not fall under regulatory mechanisms which make installation of GPS mandatory they did not track the driver. It’s mandatory only for cab services hired by employers for late night drops of women passengers.

Also, Uber claims it “is not a transportation provider” but an “aggregator”. This implies that it does not own a fleet and it does not employ drivers, unlike other transportation providers. So it has “zero liability” towards ensuring the drivers registered with it have valid licenses, permits and insurances. Instead it’s the government which picks up the tab!

This is exactly the reply made by Uber to shake off responsibility, in its initial response to the incident. Uber cool !

No need to seethe as all those who have signed up with them have agreed to that “UBER DOES NOT GUARANTEE THE SUITABILITY, SAFETY OR ABILITY OF THIRD PARTY PROVIDERS. IT IS SOLELY YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO DETERMINE IF A THIRD PARTY PROVIDER WILL MEET YOUR NEEDS AND EXPECTATIONS”. This allows them to shrug and walk away while you are traumatized for life. Read the fine print next time, “me hearties”!

For the background checks it has emerged that there are 4000 unverified cab drivers registered with Uber and the likes of Yadav were employed on the basis of forged “character certificates”. So does Uber even know who is driving? And this is when Uber advertises to provide safe rides and “shortcut to everywhere” – including your personal hell!

Yadav did not possess the Public Service Vehicle Badge (PSV Badge) which is mandatory for cab drivers. This badge is provisionally available from the Transport Department based on furnishing of the passport or a character certificate. Previously a three page Police verification form was required to be filled which sought details of criminal record and also two local guarantors of addresses and character. This was done away in 2013 and in its absence Yadav avoided disclosing facts such as his trials for sexual crimes in 2003 and 2013!

A look at Uber’s record reveals that it has services banned in Spain, Netherlands and Germany for unfair business practices and for flouting national permit requirements. Also,In Portland and California it is facing law suits over flouting regulations and for misleading customers about its background checks on drivers !

These concerns have been raised earlier and the regulatory bodies should have taken cognisance of Uber’s record worldwide. But that’s where the theatre of the absurd descends upon us.The main protagonists seem like the anthropomorphic characters from Lewis Caroll’s – Alice in Wonderland.

Like the “Queen of Hearts” declaring “off with her head” the Government immediately banned Uber from operating in Delhi. This was seemingly to appease seething public anger in a poll bound Delhi and not for regulatory concerns. The service could have been banned earlier but like Alice, the regulators had been drinking heavily from bottles labelled “Slumber on” and “Cant care lesser”!

Like “Bill the Lizard” fetches the gloves from inside the palace in a time of crisis Delhi Police too retrieved Yadav from Mathura. The Police’s unwillingness to deal with Yadav and his ilk emboldens the latter.But what better can be expected from a potbellied service seeped in alleged corruption and unsympathetic to the public it serves? (Uber burps I suppose !)

Post its castigation, Uber’s concern for the safety of women in Indian cities rings hollow and would have warmed the cockles of “Mock Turtle” who remains sad in the story even though he has no sadness !!!

The media carried out a public trial for the intial few days to cash on the TRPs and the various political parties instead of suggesting practical measures to deal with the menace indulged in a pathetic blame game ! The entire jamboree reminded me of the farcical trial of “Knave of Hearts for stealing the queen’s tarts”!

And just as in the famous tale when Alice speaks up to protest the ridiculous proceedings the King and Queen order “off with her head” this is what happens to the women of this country when they raise their voice against the lax attitude towards rape, Mulayam Singh Yadav will come up with “boyj will be boyj” theory and Chautala will prescribe early marriages and no mobile phones for girls, to prevent rape. Uber Bizarre !!!

Alice in Trauma-land indeed !

The Amul Ad is based on the incident being discussed.It depicts the Amul Girl angrily admonishing a caricature depicting an Uber executive. The executive is showing the I Phone as an alternative to and defence for not installing the GPS in the taxis.In the background is a white cab akin to the white Maruti Swift Dezire involved in the crime and a cab driver depicted cleaning his taxi, a common sight.

IMG-20141210-WA0032

The Tag Line….KhUberdaar Kyon Nahin Thheis a play on the name of Uber and the hindi word “khabardaar” which means “to be careful”.The Amul Girl is seeking the answer from Uber as to why the company wasn’t careful enough to prevent occurrence of the rape.

The Punch Line….Safe To Take Home…subtly brings home the threat posed by unregulated service providers such as Uber by comparing it with the unquestioned reliability of the Amul Butter !

There’s an urgent need to regulate the USD 6-8 billion taxi industry in India of which only 6 percent is regulated. Unbridled advent of foreign companies by luring them with low taxes and easy processes doesn’t mean that regulations will be done away with or be absolutely lax. The government and the regulators will need to ensure the safety and interests of the people of this country.

Uber verifies criminal records for drivers associated with it in the US for the last 7 years in each county of residence, in the Federal Court and also in the national crime’s register. But here it did not even check that Yadav’s cell was not registered on his name !

Not banning but stringent enforcement will work. The Police needs to get its act (and belly) in shape to infuse confidence. And they need help from the community as well,as protecting the women in our families is foremost the society’s responsibility.Its time for community policing to take root and also for creating a national register of offenders to simplify the verification process.

And its already too late for the 25000 rape victims in 2014 alone….

Parting thought..

Missing Arvind Kejriwal’s sound bytes as since the muffler is out- “Kaali Khansi” has perhaps taken the “Cheshire Cat’s” tongue !

 

 

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11 thoughts on “NIRBHAYA REDUX – “UBER” DISGRACE & THE THEATRE OF THE ABSURD!!!”

  1. Just loved dis one.. perfectly enmeshed with the children’s fiction which was actually not written just for the children.. but for the society at that time.. dat was a satirical fantastical fiction.. yours is satirically portraying dark reality of today’s India… theatre of absurd is wat india has bcm… literally. ; but nowhr literary.

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    1. Thank you.What inspired me to draw the parallel was that the “literary nonsense” genre translates into “literal nonsense” when our goofy politicians,police and enforcement agencies cover up for their inaction with knee jerk reactions and half baked excuses

      Too good to miss,isn’t it?

      Like

    1. Thanks for the encouragement.

      Hopefully,in time, there will be a transformation in our attitude towards dealing with the issue of dignity and safety of women.

      And what this incident also brings out starkly is that an unregulated business model,driven only by corporaye greed, will spell doom for the consumers.

      Like

  2. Only you could have thought of this corollary with ‘Alice in wonderland’ in such a wonderful way… Coming back to the topic, the proposition for women in India continues to be- live at your own risk and get violated at “uber’s” wish!!! Now, this Uber could be anybody…

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    1. Thanks for the endorsement on the corollary drawn with Alice’ travails.Its just the same when it comes to our response to some of our gravest problems in the society.the stake holders will bemuse you with their reactions which seldom border beyond the bizarre.
      And your reference to the situation of women is a sad testimony to the attitude of the society and a deplorable sign of our times.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice read…very well researched. Informative and hard hitting. We need to have more accountability, the article highlights facts that makes it impossible to believe that we are so gullible and naive that the system takes us for a ride in Uber Cabs.

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