By The Editor
It’s quiet surprising to think if Uber had no clue about the legal ramifications of their product, I mean what possibly can go wrong with taking a lift from a stranger and as it turned out in Delhi, everything. Initially the company did seem to be the victim of unnecessary disaster repair of Delhi administration but as the facts came out it started to make sense about the loopholes and red flags the company ignored.
First, why no action was taken when Uber already had a complaint about the rapist driver? Let’s face it, how many times you come to know if someone working for you is accused of sexual assault and you choose to not look into the problem. Given the number of drivers on Uber’s rooster all over the world there has to be a necessary buffer in the system where these consumers concerns can be addressed on an immediate basis. There is always a risk of something going very wrong with so many variables and unknowns in the equation.
Second, there is a major difference in operating a business in India and the United States. Checking up the past and criminal history on someone is quiet simple in US but not at all a straightforward task in India. It is true that Uber are as good as local police in the country they are operating when it comes to background checks but did they not considered the instances such as rape, robbery, looting in designing their business model for India given the history of incidents with women we have. Usually the job of checking criminal backgrounds is left to a third party vendor which is a normal practice in business but their requirements should have been more stringent than others. Uber as it turned out had serious licensing issues all over the world about driving permits and operating permissions. They seemed to have a workaround for everything and from cities of Spain, to Thailand, Indonesia, India, San Francisco and Portland authorities are deciding to close the loopholes that Uber have evaded until now. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that its a multi billion dollar worth company (around $18.2 billion according to a Forbes article) had it been a start firm it might have been given the benefit of doubt but the resources that are available to them could have been better used to tackle such problems.
Third, the liability factor for authorities, say Delhi government lift the ban on Uber and a sexual assault or rape happens after two months than the same people who are blaming government for over-reaction would blame it for carelessness. The question is of responsibility, who would take it if another crime is reported on unregulated radio taxis without permits, no one and in India, not a single one would take the blame. Another part is of being a public or private operator. Private taxis are considered to provide better service from regular cab drivers you meet outside a train or a bus station. They have an implied advantage of providing service, security and convenience to their customers who might be scared as hell and alert in taking the public auto, alone at 12 o’ clock night. This feeling of security is the reason people use Uber and other private operators which make them more accountable than anybody else.
It’s still a question if Uber will be allowed to operate in Indian capital and other cities and only time will tell but they would have to work very hard to restore the trust and they cannot workaround this process like everything else.