Cabs have become an important part of our lives and when it comes to “cab” the names which automatically pop up in our mind are Ola and Uber. People these days strongly believe that if they cannot commute via local means of transport, they can always rely on cab services. Moreover, when it comes to safety, people would happily book a cab at the night rather than ask for a lift from an unknown. But how far does the SOS signal work in the cab facilities?
A woman Uber driver was attacked in Delhi and the Uber SOS button failed her.
Recently, Priyanka Devi, a 30-year-old driver with Uber was attacked in an alleged robbery attempt on 9th January in the Kashmere Gate area of Delhi.
The incident took place around 2.45 am on Monday, when Devi was on her way to pick up a passenger. She was attacked by two men. They even threw bricks at the car.
Both of them asked for her phone, money, and also car keys. Reportedly, when the men tried to snatch the car keys off her hands, she resisted and one of them hit her with a beer bottle on the neck.
Devi stated in an interview with The Quint that,
“When the two men asked for the car keys, I told them that they can ‘take the money and phone but the car is not mine. How will I pay for it? I am poor myself.’ They tried to forcefully take the keys, so I held the person’s hand. But when I shouted, another person hit me on the neck with a beer bottle. I held my neck as it started bleeding. By then, a crowd had gathered so the men ran away”
“I have got 10 stitches on my neck”
Devi pressed the panic button and even called Uber services but nothing worked out for her in the end. She said,
“I pressed the panic button installed in the car and even called Uber but none of it was helpful”
What is this panic button?
After the horrific incident of the rape of a passenger by an Uber driver that took place on 28 November 2016 in New Delhi, the panic button was mandated by the authorities. It is a crucial safety feature that is made available in commercial passenger vehicles. The button is meant to be installed by the Transport Department in all such vehicles and when pressed it should trigger an alert to the police department.
However, according to a report by The Indian Express, the panic buttons even after years of them being mandated, often do not work.
An Uber spokesperson said regarding this incident,
“What this driver went through is horrifying. We are in touch with the driver and wish her a speedy and full recovery. Her injury-related medical expenses will be covered under Uber’s on-trip insurance provided through a third-party insurance partner. We stand ready to support law enforcement authorities in their investigation”
Devi also mentioned how she has to take many a precaution to ensure her safety being a woman cab driver in Delhi. As one of the few women cab drivers, she claimed that,
“Unruly passengers are common, I had never experienced something like this before”
Devi alleged that the accused took away Rs 1,500-Rs 2,000 and said,
“There is an SOS button or a panic button in the car but it serves no purpose as it does not work. Car authorities, who do the fitness check, take Rs 8,000 from each driver yearly. When I used it for help, however, nobody responded”
Devi resorted to seeking help from the locals and informed the police about the incident,
“The police personnel asked for my location, I sent it, but it took them 30 minutes to get there. They then called an ambulance. The cloth I had used to wrap around my neck was soaked in blood. I was about to faint but I had to stay conscious. I was taken to a government hospital”
The 30-year-old held onto the car keys the longest because she didn’t own the car and given her status of living she couldn’t afford to pay up for it,
“They tried to forcefully take the keys, so I held the person’s hand. But when I shouted, another person hit me on the neck with a beer bottle. I held my neck as it started bleeding. By then, a crowd had gathered so the men ran away”
The DCP (North) Sagar Singh Kalsi said,
“She submitted that an attempt was made to snatch her mobile and then the attacker fled. She refused to tender any complaint but we have taken suo moto cognizance of the case and filed an FIR under Section 393 (attempt to commit robbery) of the Indian Penal Code”
Devi shared some of her daily challenges as a female cab driver
Devi who is a single mother of two daughters lost her husband eight years ago. She used to as a domestic worker before she took up the job as a cab driver. About taking up driving cabs, she said:
“When I used to work as a domestic worker, I found out about Azaad Foundation – an NGO that teaches women how to drive for free. So, I trained there for a year and began driving cabs three years ago”
She also spoke about the sexism female drivers face daily,
“Sometimes people cancel the cab booking because I’m a woman driver. Others argue and even shout that I am driving slowly”
Uber failed to safeguard the driver.
On 9 January, the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union (TGPWA) addressed this issue in a press release and said,
“Uber has failed to adequately safeguard the driver in the first place nor has it provided any support during or in the aftermath of this unfortunate accident.”
The press release also stated a list of demands for devi, which included an appeal for compensation for the “costs of repairing her damaged vehicle” and for “her hospital costs.”
Moreover, the group concluded and demanded that Devi should be provided with income compensation of Rs 1,200 each day since
“her vehicle is out of commission and she is unable to earn her livelihood.”