Banning cab service is overreaction

A ban comes as an easy reflex action to administrations when they try to deal with an issue, be it an inconvenient book or a film, a public meeting or an assembly, and now, a cab service. There usually is no pause to reflect on what the real issue is which is to be addressed.

The Delhi government promptly banned the internet-based cab service Uber after the rape of a woman by the driver of a cab operated by the service. The rape was a terrible incident and is a reminder of the 2012 Nirbhaya case where a young woman was brutally raped and killed.

But the issues involved are not just the failures of the taxi service but the environment for sexual violence against women, the inability of governments and societies to ensure their safety and the deficiencies in the system of granting operational licence to service providers and even driving licences to individuals.

Banning a cab service whose driver was found to have been involved in the case is an overreaction. Will a public transport undertaking be banned if there is a rape in a bus? The Delhi government was shifting its part of the responsibility with the ban and may have wanted to be seen as taking quick action, especially with elections to the Assembly expected to be announced soon.

State governments in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana have followed Delhi in banning all web-based cab services including Uber. The Union home ministry had earlier advised all states and UTs to impose such bans.

This is not a solution for the problems of sexual crimes and poor transport administration. Uber was certainly at fault for not doing proper background verification of the driver who, it turns out, was involved in many cases including offences against women in the past.

It failed to take other safety measures too. But the administration also has to answer some questions. It says Uber did not have a licence to operate taxis. Then why was it allowed to run the service? If the driver secured a licence with a fake police verification certificate, it is a poor comment on the system itself.

The Delhi transport department has not formulated any norms for the operation of the new type of cab services. It is for the administration, as for governments elsewhere, to create a proper legal framework for the working of such cab service operators and ensure that they strictly follow the rules and regulations.

They have become popular because of the failure of the public transport system and for many other reasons. Making them the sole scapegoats for all failures will not help.

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