Now Banned but Why Was Uber with Dismal Legal Record Even Allowed into India?
Students demonstrate outside the Delhi police headquarters.
NEW DELHI: Two years since the rape of the young girl in a moving bus and clearly little has been done by the successive governments to ensure safety for women on Delhi roads.
Opposition parties, students and civil society groups held a series of protests across Delhi against the rape of the young woman by a Uber cab driver Shiv Kumar Yadav, demanding an explanation from the central government and the Lt Governor Najeeb Jung as to what measures had been taken since to secure the capital’s women. In the dock the government, with no answers, decided to ban Uber cabs in Delhi.
But the question demanding an answer is how was this service, given its extremely poor record in different countries, even allowed into India. And why were strictures by the Reserve Bank of India not taken immediately on board by the authorities?
The radio cab services, seen initially as safe for women because of their contact with the head offices, have suddenly come under a question mark with the Uber incident. The police has blamed the cab service for not complying with all norms, but these pointers also raise the question as to how this American company was allowed to ply in India without complying with the regulations, including Reserve Bank of India stipulations?
Yadav is now , according to the police, a serial rapist and the two questions that arise are : 1) why was he free , without police monitoring, to commit the crime again and 2) why did Uber not run a background check and police verification on him.
The very fact that a senior police officer had no idea where the office of the Uber cab service was located is a comment not just on the taxi service, but on the government and the administrative system, as well as the law and order machinery. The officer had to book a cab and then get the driver to take him to the Uber office for further questioning. The cab service was served a legal notice and has issued a statement saying it was going to cooperate in the investigation.
Uber is San Francisco based “ridesharing company” and uses basically a smartphone application to seal the deal with the client able to track the cab’s movement as it approaches him or her for the pick up. It has expanded rapidly and is available now in 200 cities and 45 countries across the globe.
However, according to information available it is clear that Uber’s rise has not been without controversy. According to Wikipedia, “ On August 22, 2014, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued "Security Issues and Risk mitigation measures related to Card Not Present (CNP) transactions" targeting Uber, which mandates a "two factor authentication" in where cards are not present. In the case of Uber, the RBI also believes that it results in foreign exchange leaving the country as payments are made in another currency. Uber has however accepted the mandatory regulatory measure instituted by the RBI and has teamed up with an online recharging portal called PayTM to allow users to pay in Indian currency via their e-wallet service PayTM Wallet for it's services. The shift has been officiated with an update to its mobile application on November 18th 2014 and allows users to complete this change by November 23rd 2014, with accompanied promotions if they do so by the stipulated deadline.” It could not be ascertained whether Uber complied with the Nov 23 deadline.”
There have been a litany of cases and complaints against Uber by the authorities of Belgium. Canada, Germany, Philippines, Australia, New South Wales, Thailand, UK and for that matter even the U.S.
In the US for instance just one of the cases recorded against Uber ran as follows: “in May 2011, Uber received a cease-and-desist letter from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, claiming it was operating an unlicensed taxi service, and another legal demand from the California Public Utilities Commission that it was operating an unlicensed limousine dispatch. Both claimed criminal violations and demanded that the company cease operations. In response, the company, among other things, changed its name from UberCab to Uber. In the fall of 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a cease-and-desist letter to Uber (along with rideshare companies Lyft and SideCar) and fined each $20,000. However, an interim agreement was reached in 2013 reversing those actions.”
Again, according to available information, “Uber was banned in Brussels whereby the company will be fined $13,500 if it offers fares to drivers who are not in possession of a taxi license. Bruselles-Mobilite, the city’s federal region administration responsible for infrastructure and traffic, impounded 13 cars aligned with Uber after March 2014 and a spokesperson for the body described the service as “illegal” in June 2014.”
Uber has been involved in lawsuits, the target of demonstrations and protests across the world, and it is not clear why after this chequered and very visible history it was allowed to enter the Indian market where the safety of women remains a major issue. There is no response from the government as to why the entry of this cab service, inspite of the RBI strictures, was not monitored strictly and adherence to norms such as basic police verification of the drivers hired ensured.