While services and facilities are looking to improve, the private transport system with app-based taxi aggregators have vastly improved commuting convenience for the public. In a country where the public transport system is quite abysmal, Ola and Uber which have captured the car-services market successfully, are still regarded to have a patchy safety system in place.
Women in India are often the target of sexual harassment and mis-conduct. While physical intimidation and sexual crimes against women is commonplace across the country, the huge question is how can a public space or a work space give women guaranteed protection?
The Metro Rail system has been implemented and although it has a fair share of passengers who can travel safely, many still use local trains to commute, where safety of women cannot be guaranteed. The same goes for the public buses, where women face harassment every other day.
A car service like Ola and Uber could have been the answer to working women, with a ‘one-stop drop’ through a single phone call and reasonable fare. However, it ends there. These private cab services have come to be questioned for their safety measures. Cases of sexual assault and harassment by drivers have been alleged by female passengers on many an occasion. The online ride hailing service has had it’s fair share of controversies.
While both services claim to have zero tolerance for such incidents and have blacklisted such drivers immediately upon receiving the complaint, driver- vetting, customer feedback and panic buttons on phones have still failed to address the issue. There is no one on hand to stop the harassment when it takes place.
Drivers abducting women passengers, deviating from the normal routes and sexually harassing them and forcibly taking pictures of them, are examples of how things can go horribly wrong with such services. Despite deploying several measures, Ola and Uber are still at sea; which points to loopholes in the system that allows for such crimes to take place.
Recently, a woman passenger in Bengaluru was subjected to an ordeal when she was travelling home after dinner with some friends. She had hired an Uber taxi, and suddenly she heard the driver talking on his phone to a friend, saying about his customers being ‘very bad’.
The driver started getting personal with her, telling her off about her lifestyle and when the passenger pressed the safety button on the Uber app, and spoke to customer service, the driver threatened to ‘tear the clothes off’ the woman passenger. The time was closer to midnight and there was no transport on the not-so-busy road. Uber did not help her get another cab after this sordid experience. Only the amount was refunded to her.
Most of these drivers come from patriarchal backgrounds and assume that they can avoid prosecution. There is no gender-sensitization and in many cases, they do get away with the crime as women passengers to a large pecentage, are afraid to report the incident, and face the trauma of dealing with the process, the police, a trial and the ‘stigma’ that is attached to it.