Model murder: Rao calls for security checks in cabs

Model murder: Rao calls for security checks in cabs

Fatal journey

Pooja Singh De.

There is a call to improve safety checks in app-based cab services following the recent murder of a Kolkata woman near the Kempegowda International Airport. 

Bhaskar Rao, the Bengaluru police commissioner, has expressed the need to implement the same security checks in all cabs and public transport facilities. Cab aggregators believe that physically checking vehicles is almost impossible through their app-based platform. 

“Ola, Uber and other such cab aggregators have become quite lackadaisical. They must follow the same monitoring policies as BMTC buses. Carrying a weapon in a public vehicle is unlawful and there is no excuse for the lack of monitoring,” Rao said. 

Pooja Singh De was murdered en route the airport on the morning of July 31 allegedly by her cabbie for gain. A day before, she booked an Ola cab, driven by H M Nagesh, to return to her hotel. She called the same driver later that night to drop her to the airport the next morning. This booking was not made through the Ola app. As Pooja slept during the journey, the cab driver hit her with a jack lever, stunning her. When she woke up later, he stabbed her with a knife, police said. 

An Ola spokesperson said: “We have app-based security measures such as the Ola Guardian which tracks all rides booked through the app and informs customers of any deviations in route. However, these provisions can only work when the cab is booked through the app. It is not feasible for us to physically search vehicles especially since these drivers are market-sourced and not company employees.” 

The investigating officer said Nagesh carried a knife, which showed he had plans to rob. If not Pooja, it would have been somebody else. The officer batted for surprise checks and constant monitoring of these cabs and drivers by the aggregators. 

B R Ravikanthe Gowda, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic), said that given the early hour and the lack of traffic lights on the alternative road to the airport, Nagesh sensed a perfect opportunity to rob his passenger. “We have suggested that more streetlights and road signs be installed on the airport road. We also want to increase patrolling in the area to create a safer environment for travellers,” he said. 

Social activist Tara Krishnaswamy said BMTC regulations were also minimal and suggested raising the standards. “We can take a cue from the European transport safety regulations and form greater legislature around safety in public transport,” she added. 

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