Uber rape case: It’s a free-for-all in private taxi sector

Laws stipulate tracking devices only for cabs of BPOs and corporates, not privately-owned ones

December 09, 2014 04:40 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:15 pm IST - New Delhi

The Uber case has proved that Indian laws are toothless against the millions of vehicles which have gradually coalesced in the informal transport sector over the last five years. Further, no effort has been made by successive governments to bring in even a semblance of regulation to the sector.

Following the rape of a 27-year-old woman by an Uber cab driver, The Hindu spoke to a cross-section of police officers, transport department officials and private taxi operators to ascertain where the buck stopped on making commercially-registered, but privately-owned, vehicles safer, and those behind their wheels accountable.

Despite the outcry after the Dhaula Kuan rape of 2010 and the December 16 gang-rape of 2012, the sole government policy that emerged for regulating vehicles carrying women in Delhi, which continues to be in force, was a notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The notification — No. U-11036/(i)UTL dated 09.09.2010 — declared several guidelines for vehicles carrying female employees of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies and corporate houses, including equipping their vehicles with GPS (Global Positioning Systems) in two months. However, the notification is silent on its application to similar vehicles not directly employed by such business entities, such as privately-owned cabs.

“The MHA’s notification has a glaring loophole when it comes to the installation of tracking devices — it only applies to cab vendors picking up and dropping female employees of BPOs and corporates daily,” said a senior police officer.

“Instead of making such devices the norm for all commercially registered vehicles offering transportation, the notification fails to presuppose that women employees might, of their own volition, travel by one of the lakhs of vehicles in Delhi which have nothing to do with their place of employment and do not fall into that category,” the officer added.

“Earlier, we used to rely on business from tourists but that has been hard to come by since big companies like Uber and many others came to Delhi. We have no option but to get our cabs attached to these bigger vendors if we want to survive,” said one such transporter.

“As far as installing tracking devices is concerned – one device costs between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 15,000. That amount is usually our monthly earning. How can we afford its installation and maintenance when business is hard to come by?” the transporter asked.

According to a senior government official, cabs with All India Tourist Permits — like the one involved in the incident — do not require tracking devices, as per existing laws.

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