In growing trouble for Uber following the alleged rape of a woman in one of its cabs, the app-based taxi service’s Asia-Pacific head Eric Alexander was questioned by Delhi Police for the second day in a row on Wednesday even as its general manager in Mumbai was slapped in public.
Uber cabs also seemed to go off Delhi’s roads as its mobile app stopped working, three days after the city government banned all web-based cab services . Later in the day, the Maharashtra government decided to follow suit and enforce the ban in the state.
However, Ola was still taking bookings through its app and call centre and Taxi For Sure’s app was also working in Delhi, though HT’s attempts to book a cab was met with a ‘try later’ response.
Through the day, traffic police and transport department impounded 738 taxis found to be flouting the ban and prosecuted 2,601 drivers. But department officials were still figuring out how to enforce the ban effectively.
In Mumbai, Uber GM Shailesh Sawlani was slapped by a member of Swabhiman Sanghatana — an NGO led by Congress MLA Nitesh Rane — after he stepped out of a meeting of radio cab representatives called by the transport commissioner. Sawlani did not suffer any serious harm as the traffic police intervened. No complaint or FIR was filed.
In Delhi, Uber’s Asia-Pacific head Alexander presented himself at the office of DCP (north) Madhur Verma in connection with the cheating case registered against the company for its failure to run a background check on the accused driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav.
He was questioned on Tuesday evening too for almost three hours, police sources said.
Alexander was asked specifically about complaints against 32-year-old Shiv Kumar Yadav, the driver accused of raping a woman executive of a Gurgaon-based finance company on Friday night.
Investigations have revealed Yadav is a serial sex offender , who has faced two previous rape cases. Uber did not run a background check on him.
On Tuesday, US-based Nidhi Shah revealed that Yadav had stared at her lecherously when she took his cab on November 26, but the company had taken no action on her complaint.
“We had asked him (Alexander) to submit documents, including details of taxis and drivers working with them, how they checked their antecedents, security measures adopted by them, details of formal/informal complaints filed against their drivers anywhere in India,” said additional DCP (north) Brijender Kumar Yadav.
Alexander said as he left a little over an hour later: “My heart feels sympathy for the girl. We cannot comment on the case as it is an ongoing investigation. We are cooperating with the police."
Telangana, Andhra ban Uber
Authorities in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh too banned Uber. The transport departments in both states said Uber had no permission to operate and advised people to refrain from hiring cabs using the app-based service.
In Hyderabad and neighbouring Ranga Reddy district, special teams of Road Transport Authority (RTA) and police launched a crackdown on Uber and other services operating illegally.
The officials seized several cabs in Hyderabad and Cyberabad police commissionerates for unauthorised operations.
Noida, Ghaziabad follow the same route
The Uttar Pradesh transport department said it had banned Uber cab services in Noida, Greater Noida and Ghaziabad.
“I have issued instructions to concerned officials in Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar district and cab operators to identify all kinds of vehicles being used as cabs defying laid down norms. I have directed to ban all cabs including that of Uber, which are operating flouting safety and motor vehicle acts,” said Mayank Jyoti, regional transport officer (RTO) for Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar and Bulandshahr district.
TN on alert
Though the Tamil Nadu government is yet to ban any taxi service in the wake of a suggestion from the Centre, transport department officials say new guidelines aimed at streamlining taxi operations and tightening regulations are being worked out.
In Tamil Nadu, the Madras high court had earlier directed the state government to properly regulate taxi services.
(with inputs from HT Correspondents in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Noida and Chennai)