Can Indian women ever step into a taxi with complete assurance over their safety anymore? The latest in a string of controversies associated with ride-sharing apps took place when a female passenger caught her TaxiForSure driver masturbating while travelling through Delhi. In a widely-shared Facebook post the victim said that the driver ‘had a smile on his face that will haunt me for nights to come’ and demanded an answer from Ola Cabs, the owner of TaxiForSure.
This disturbing incident comes just months after an Uber driver was accused of molesting a woman. Which brings us to the question will service providers ever learn to run secure checks on drivers before hiring them, or beef up safety measures for passengers? Where there is darkness, there is light too...as in the case of Chennaiite Ranjani Shanker, a musician, who recently asked an auto driver to take a specific route she’d looked up on Google Maps despite being warned by him that it was not sufficiently illuminated.
“Throughout the ride, the auto driver was reassuring, and said Ola had trained him to drive single women. Not only did he deposit me at my destination, he waited 20 minutes with me until my friend arrived, crossed the road with me and ensured I got in safe. Thank you, Ghasamfar Ali. Ola, you should be proud to have him drive for you.”
When contacted, Ranjani tells us that she felt it was important to share the incident as there’s too much negativity these days and heart-warming stories like these don’t get highlighted. “Women who read the note, could relate to the fear I had while travelling, which is why it struck a resonant chord with them,” she smiles. While it’s true that negative episodes, especially in a city like Chennai, occur quite rarely, women in the city still do live with a perennial fear of travelling at night alone. And there may be a solution, they say why not let the passenger look up the history of a driver before agreeing to get in?
“It would help for the app to have a feature like that. It surely wouldn’t be too difficult to let us view his background credentials after all, it’s only for our self-assurance. It might also help track a person quicker if he commits a crime," states singer and model Ashwathy Warrier.
Freelance app developer B. Sundar agrees and says taxi companies should invest in such a venture, as it would do a world of good to boost customer morale and loyalty. “Passengers could either use a facial-recognition software or just as easily, type in the driver’s name or employee number. It would increase their trust in the service.”
Others like photographer Anitha Murthi, who says she keeps her fiancé on the phone throughout taxi journeys after-hours, aren’t entirely convinced. “I agree it provides more credibility. But can you say with total conviction that you feel absolutely safe after reading about his past? The app would work at some level, but women should still take precautions.”