Safety of passengers travelling by cabs hired through Ola and Uber has remained a major concern, with the city police stating that aggregators have not followed orders issued by the state government and the police.
Two months before the horrific murder of a Kolkata-based model by a driver near the Kempegowda Internatonal Airport, the city police had issued a set of seven directions to the aggregators, making several fool-proof measures mandatory.
The police and even drivers had said that much needs to be done for better verification of the character and antecedents of all the drivers hired by Ola and Uber. The police had, therefore, directed the aggregators to maintain a database, including fingerprints, of the drivers.
The major direction to install GPS and panic buttons in cabs for tracking vehicles and emergency response has not been implemented, despite repeated reminders. In addition, the police had also sought linking of SOS in aggregator apps with the Suraksha app of the police.
However, the cab aggregators have not implemented the measures as directed by the police. This came to light following a complaint against Ola by a relative of an aggrieved passenger.
The Koramangala police even issued a notice to Ola (ANI Technologies Pvt Ltd), summoning its board of directors on October 10.
“The notice was issued to question the failure to implement the guidelines. We will take necessary action in the coming days,” DCP (south east) Isha Pant told DH.
The 10-hour ceiling on the time a driver is allowed to work on an aggregator platform is also being violated every day. The limit was introduced after drivers complained that they are made to work beyond 16 or 18 hours to reach the targets fixed to obtain allowances.
“Even today, it is impossible to reach the targets unless one works for more than
16 hours. Some drivers do not go home for three days and sleep in snatches in their anxiety to reach the target trips,” said Tanveer Pasha, president, OTU (Ola TaxiForSure Uber) Drivers and Owners Association.
Pasha said a physical panic button will help both the passengers and drivers. “There are several cases of drivers being robbed or murdered while working late in the night. Their service to the transport sector needs to be recognised. At the same time, some drivers, whose antecedents are not checked, are being added to the platform. They bring a bad name to all of us,” he said.
Ola, Uber reactions
Responding to specific questions, both Ola and Uber said they have made checking of criminal records mandatory.
While an Uber spokesperson said the app hosts a rider safety toolkit, including an emergency button that connects riders directly with law enforcement authorities, the spokesperson from Ola said a dedicated safety response team handles SOS calls from a similar feature in the aggregator’s app.
There was no response to the question about the implementation of a physical panic button and overworked drivers, which is seen as a potential threat to road safety.