Assault shows how vulnerable cab drivers can be

They work long hours, and sometimes have to deal with rowdy passengers
Last Updated 04 December 2018, 13:23 IST

A cab driver was abducted, assaulted and robbed by four men in Bengaluru late last week.

The abductors then forced him to call his wife, and made her strip on video.

The news has shocked drivers, are underlined their vulnerability.

An Ola Spokesperson said, “This is an extremely unfortunate incident and we deeply regret the harrowing experience the driver-partner and his family have allegedly been put through. We have blacklisted the customer’s Ola account.”

Ola says it is in touch with the driver-partner and is assisting the police with all necessary information.

A company source said it was standing by the driver. “We aim to get justice for him,” he told Metrolife. Ola says it provides 24x7 support for drivers.

Aggregators usually have ‘partner care’ to help out when vehicles break down.

Under Ola’s ‘Chalo Befikar’ policy, drivers get up to Rs 5 lakh in life insurance coverage, and benefits in case of hospitalisation and even covers business losses.

Uber did not respond to queries about its driver security policies.

Not all customers behave decently, drivers say.

Wasim Khan (name changed on request), a driver with Ola, says targets are set by the company for each day and drivers typically take up as many rides as possible to achieve the target. “This forces us to be quiet when we are treated badly. I have had encounters with intoxicated passengers who vomit in the cab and are confused about their drop location. Often, they raise complaints about long routes and excess fares, even though they are to blame for the extended rides,” he says.

Some couples get intimate in the cabs, and cause embarrassment to the drivers. “There are men who pick up women using the add-a-location option and then create a nuisance. I have stopped such rides, asking passengers to get off, and informed Ola,” says Wasim.

Passengers who refuse to pay after a ride and those who drink and complain about co-passengers on pool rides are the most common problems Douglas G (name changed), a cab driver with Uber, has faced.

“Stopping the ride and raising a ticket is the only way out. It can get very tricky when the passengers refuse to get off. I have once had to drive to a police station to force a passenger to get off,” says Douglas.

Safety is a major concern for women cab drivers, although their numbers are small.

Vandana Suri, founder of TaxShe, says her passengers are women and regulars, and so the problem isn’t so difficult to handle.

“About 95 per cent of our rides are fixed; our only unfamiliar rides are those pre-booked from the airports,” she says. TaxShe has a filtration process for customers and drivers are trained to handle emergencies.

“Our cars are tracked and someone is always monitoring the rides. The women are trained in Israeli combat-style self-defence. They are also trained to be alert on the road; when a car is tailing them, they drive to the nearest police station,” says Vandana.

Anuradha BM, co-founder of Go Pink Premium Cabs, says GPS keeps the company informed about where exactly the cabs are.

“The driver can press the panic button in case of an emergency. Our cabs have pepper spray cans and our employees are trained in self-defence,” she says.

While the cab serves women and children going to office and school, its night services are restricted to airport rides.

“We do not schedule any other rides at night. Men cannot use our services unless they are with family,” says Anuradha.

Go Pink intends to tighten safety for its drivers.

“We are working on an SOS option on a mobile app,” she says. “People in our network are mapped on routes that our drivers take, and can rush to help if a situation arises.”

Common driver headaches

*Drunk passengers vomiting inside cabs

*Passengers on pool rides not getting along

*Confused passengers blaming drivers

*Passengers refusing to pay after a ride

*Couples getting intimate

(Published 04 December 2018, 13:23 IST)

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