Cab, anyone?

Plonking in the rear seat of the veggie shopping bag next to Mrs. Rani, in what I could describe only as “Freaky-taxi”, I couldn’t help myself from deliberating on the current operational statistic and state of the taxi industry in this country. That’s right. I may be only a potato, but I do take great interest in the nation.

We all have a clear picture of how radio cabs operate, so I’m not going into those details. However, to elucidate on this subject further in my monologue, and to jog your memory here’s something I found off Google.

How Radio-cabs work

On what bases is supply generated in the Radio taxi system?

According to my eavesdropping report of Mr. Ravi in conversation with Mr. Mani Rajagopalan, Managing Director of Cab4U, “There are 3 modes of generating supply in this industry, one is through its own fleet- where the company directly owns the vehicles and puts in salaried drivers on its roll to ply these vehicles, second is the attachment model- where the company gets into contract with the owner of each vehicle, the owner takes care of the salary of the driver and plies the vehicle in the name of the taxi company, third is the Aggregator model- whereby the company directly uses the services of smaller travel companies and the travel company maintains a small fleet of its own and runs the same for the Taxi-Company.

Each Taxi company follows one or more of the models or a combination of all 3 to manage the supply of cabs.”

Supply Sources

Now what’s the issue?

San Francisco based Uber Cabs has been recently subject to the ignominy following the sexual assault of one of its drivers on a lady passenger who was enroute home from work. Shiv Kumar Yadav, a 32 year old cabbie, previously tried for sexual harassment and misconduct appeared before the court and gave what could be only a narcissistic encounter with his victim describing every little detail with an absolute lack of contrition. He had claimed in his account to the police that, he had subject the 27 year old victim to an hour of anguish, slapping her, threatening her and forcibly assaulting her. The neurotic sex offender has been a sense of terror in his village and has been a constant demon, who however had never been reported due to the ill effects to follow. Aside the sexual compulsion, he adds to his kitty blackmail and forgery. In the wake of these horrifying turn of events, an appaling reality awaits us.

The Freak

What went wrong?

Uber operates on the Aggregator model, as explained in the diagram above. The aggregator model is typically a pooling of a number of small travel outfits and thus cumulatively controlling a fleet of 300-500 cars in the city. Due to the excessive dependancy on the small-time operators and a complete lack of understanding the nitty-gritties of the operations of these outfits, Uber is ignorant of the background of the driver, which should critically form the most critical aspect of the running database which any service operator is required to maintain.

The following diagram denotes the business model of Uber:

Uber business model

Uber is an unregistered web based – taxi company and has not complied with a number of regulations as per the Delhi Radio Taxi Scheme, 2006.

Highlights of the Scheme:

Scheme Summary

Scheme Summary

Uber drivers told Reuters (sic) that it (Uber) collects only basic information such as their driving licence, proof of address and car registration documents. Those interviewed, said Uber asked questions about criminal records and relied on government documents for verification, a sharp contrast from the three-step screening in the United States, where court records are checked going back seven years.

Is this the India we want to live in? What should we do aside protesting which fall on deaf ears?

General Corrective Measures required:

  1. The Taxi-companies must directly involve themselves in inducting each and every vehicle, completing the standard tests for both the vehicles and their drivers and have a system for running the background verification through various government agencies. Only when a vehicle passes through this stringent check-list, it should be allowed to ply for the company.
  1. Running checks at frequent intervals to check the fitness of both the vehicles and its drivers.
  1. Regular training programs, to educate the drivers on road safety, etiquette and values. 

Safety through Technology:

GPS Enabled- Track my ride-

Access to track the cab “anywhere anytime” must be provided to the passengers travelling in the cab as well as their immediate contacts. In case of any undue stops or untoward incidents, the passenger should have access to press the SOS button to immediately alert the local police, the Taxi Company and their kin.

– Mani Rajagopalan, MD, Cab4U

The conch has been sounded to every Indian to face an atrociously hideous truth to quit living in Utopia, to equip ourselves to possess a greater sense of awareness and concern for each other.

The Government is to take up this issue gravely and to ensure such a scalding and scarring incident is appropriately dealt with as a precautionary measure rather than addressing an aftermath. As the proverb goes “Prevention is better than cure”.

So how can the Government prevent such a ghastly incident in the future?

  1. Imposing stringent transport regulations and to bring a One-Code system for all Privately operated public transport vehicles. A unique coding system, trace-back interfacing and collecting and maintaining adequate documents and papers as per the International benchmark
  2. Registration, follow-up and surprise test capability plans to be drawn in effect to standardise the covenants covering such transport regulations and to stipulate model rights and obligations for the community of transport operators
  3. To establish guidelines and impose penalties on failure to adhere to them, such as publicly displaying the details of the Radio cab operator, the driver and emergency contact numbers/ hotlines
  4. To establish grievance redressal mechanisms and to take immediate action by setting up cloaked wings of the personnel incharge of such committees.
  5. To actively promulgate safety and security among the country and to place as priority, the people and their protection

Yam, my sister goes to a Multinational Corporation and her workplace takes a very active role in ensuring the security of its women staff. The following points are noteworthy:

  1. No women employees are to stay in the office campus beyond 8 pm. If work mandates that the lady staff stays beyond 8 pm, a written letter is to be submitted to the Chief of Security, expressly approved by the respective manager or superior.
  2. All cabs are fitted with GPS tracking equipments and the routes are constantly monitored by the local station situated at the office
  3. All drivers get a schedule of the employees they are to drop and a rotation is ensured so that no driver gets familiar with the employee’s route or house
  4. The mobile number of the lady passenger is kept confidential and not disclosed to the driver or printed in the schedule.
  5. Express care is supposed to be extended by the Drivers (who are subject to an unyielding protocol of background checks) who drop the women employees home to stay for five-ten minutes outside the building until the woman enters her house.
  6. Any modification or adjustment to the routes owing to traffic or road layouts are communicated well in advance to the employees via email or any other suitable communication mechanism
  7. An escort (who is again put through a rigorous background verification process) accompanies the lady employees in case there are multiple stops and it is ensured that at no point of time a woman employee is left alone with the driver.
  8. SOS Hotlines and Emergency contact numbers are displayed publicly in the cab and are provided to the employees in advance

Uber has been banned in a few parts of the country now, but does that suffice? If not Uber, tomorrow we see another Radio-cab. We are Gen-Y. We need services. We need quality service. What we should try to do is quintessentially, mend the existing system, check for loopholes, re-check for wear and tear and constantly keep re-tweaking ourselves. It’s really like replacing a flat tire. You can’t say you won’t use tires anymore!

It’s food for thought, really. If we want to see the change we dream of, we ought to be the catalyst.

Bibliography:

This article has thrived on information, facts, figures and geeky numbers, more than my opinion. It would be but unfair on my part if I do not disclose my sources:

  1. Mani Rajagopalan, Managing Director, Cab4U and a very dear friend
  2. Yam, my sister who lives in Bangalore
  3. The eternal search engine Google- https://www.google.co.in/?gws_rd=ssl
  4. http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/fyq8P7i09Ee3GyLbCdV0xM/Indias-rape-problem-cant-be-solved-by-restricting-Uber.html
  5. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/07/us-india-rape-uber-arrest-idUSKBN0JL0IK20141207
  6. http://www.ndtv.com/article/cheat-sheet/uber-banned-in-delhi-ceo-travis-kalanick-suggests-authorities-partly-to-blame-10-developments-631534?curl=1418277405
  7. http://www.delhi.gov.in/DoIT/DoIT_Transport/trrs31.pdf
  8. http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/12/10/india-rape-uber-driver-idINKBN0JO0CC20141210
  9. https://digitalconsumers.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/future-of-call-taxi-industry-in-india/
  10. http://www.slideshare.net/valoriserconsultants/radio-taxi-market-in-india-a-case-study-of-delhi – Offers amazing presentations! Thank you!
  11. http://www.moneylife.in/article/india-urban-transport/38888.html

– PotatoPen

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