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Cab nightmares

There have been many incidents of unruly behaviour by Uber drivers in Delhi in recent times, but the company has always failed to take these complaints seriously

Jatin (name changed) had taken an Uberpool, like any other day, from his home in Gurugram to go to his office on the morning of June 4, 2019. However, what happened that day deeply disturbed him to the core.

On that day Jatin was picked up by a driver, Rakesh in his white Swift Dzire, numbered HR 55R 2037. He says that Rakesh was someone who did not hesitate to strike a conversation with his riders. Jatin was accompanied in the car by a female passenger, who had somehow entered the wrong destination on her app. She asked the driver to drop her at her original destination, and he obliged.

It was after the woman got down that things started to take an uncomfortable turn for Jatin. The driver kept ranting about how women are smart and trick men into doing anything.This was followed by a barrage of sexist remarks. Jatin, though seemingly a little shocked kept to himself as he didn’t want to escalate the conversation.

It was then that the driver Rakesh took the conversation to a more ugly politival tone. He said that once he and his friend beat up Arvind Kejriwal, when the chief minister visited the latter’s house. He further went on to say that he is  happy with the appointment of Amit Shah as the home minister as he keeps “muslims in check” like he did during the 2002 Gujarat riots, saying that it was absolutely right to slaughter Muslims because they deserve that.

He then went on to say that he had stayed in Gujarat during 2007-08 and he had enjoyed a lot with his friend there. They used to get drunk and beat up Muslims for fun. He even claimed that he raped the wives of the men he beat up and he loved doing so.

This came as a shock to Jatin, and he felt extremely uncomfortable. Even after the ride got over, the incident disturbed him for a long time. Finally he decided to register a complaint with Uber, charging the driver of hate speech and inappropriate comments. However, despite sending repeated messages, Uber finally gave him a response- that too auto generated by an AI- which said that they had taken note of his feedback and that they were sorry to hear about his trouble on the trip.

On Thursday June 6, two days after this incident, Jatin received a phone call from Uber’s safety team who, according to him, basically said the same thing they had mentioned in the auto generated message, adding that they will take action which they can’t disclose. “I am extremely disappointed and shocked that Uber didn’t take a stand regarding such a gross violation of conduct by a driver”, complains Jatin.

This incident is however not a solitary one, as many people have complained against Uber’s drivers for their misconduct and also claimed that the company hasn’t taken any action. Recently, a journalist Amrita Das took to Twitter to explain the horrific incident she encountered. The driver was rude to her from the very beginning of the ride as he refused to turn the AC on despite requests from her. He then went on to say “garmi lag rahi hai to aage mere godi me baith jao (If you are feeling hot then come and sit on my lap).” Moments after this, the driver ended the trip mid journey and forced her to get out. This happened while her husband was with her in the cab. In response Uber just gave out a tweet, instead of promising that they would take action

In her blog, Ananya Bhattacharya, a resident of Noida, narrated her horror story when she was travelling to her home in sector 100 from a colleague’s place in sector 21. The driver stopped the car midway in the underpass near the Great India Place mall around 10.55 pm, and asked her where she would go, his breath clearly smelling of alcohol. The driver then continued to go, speeding at more than 100 km/hr, and then again came to a halt near sector 45, where he said the car run out of petrol and he called his brother to bring some fuel so that they can restart the journey.In the meantime Ananya called her colleague, who arrived in the nick of time as she drove off from there. When she complained about this to Uber, they did not resolve the issue, as they could not contact the drive due to late hours.

After she put up the incident on Twitter, a lot of people came out in her support and her post went viral. That is when Uber came out and said they had suspended the driver from all duties.

These are just few of the many incidsents that happen on a regular basis. The twitter page “Uber Support” is full of such complaints, most of them concerning the unruly behaviour of their drivers. But most of these responses are the same — auto generated through an AI. A company  that assures the safety of riders, Uber’s handling of complaints seem far off from the promises of “assuring safety”, that they have mentioned in their company guidelines.

Patriot reached out to Uber via email and also contacted their official spokesperson, Arijit Banerjee. We did not receive any response from both.