The San Francisco-headquartered cab service company Uber has been banned in New Delhi following the alleged rape of a finance executive by one if its drivers. News has also emerged that the 32-year-old driver, who was apprehended by Delhi police on Sunday, was reportedly arrested three years ago for sexual assault. The narrative surrounding the Delhi police’s claims that Uber had failed to subject its driver to thorough background checks has found a firmer foot in the larger public discourse. However, the public outrage that followed the incident has been devoid of any nuance.
There is no doubt that Uber should be held culpable for the above incident, especially in the context of how the company conducts its business in the United States. All drivers under the company in the United States undergo a rigorous three-step screening process, which includes county, federal and multi-state checks. These checks go back seven years into its employee’s past based on public records. On the basis of such double standards, the company must be held liable for the events of December 5. The burden of culpability, however, must be shared with the transport authorities in the national capital and the Delhi police. The majority of Uber drivers in the national capital work for local transportation companies.
These vehicles are owned by such transport companies and contract drivers ply them on behalf of Uber. These drivers then take the car, their licences, photos and other documents to Uber’s office in Gurgaon, where they are allegedly ‘verified’. Besides these checks, drivers are also coached by the company on how to behave and talk to customers. However, it is imperative to understand that the company enters into a partnership with registered for-hire drivers, who have undergone the commercial licencing process, hold government issued identity card, state-issued permits and carry full commercial insurance documents. Uber is entering into a contract with a driver, who Delhi transport and police authorities feel is fit to ferry passengers across the city. Such verifications and checks on the driver’s background are supposed to be done before he receives his commercial driving licence. Despite Uber’s culpability, one cannot ignore the failures of the state machinery.