Private taxi operator Uber’s general manager in Mumbai, Shailesh Sawlani, was attacked by a member of a taxi union on Wednesday as he emerged from a meeting of private fleet operators with Maharashtra’s transport commissioner at the latter’s Bandra office around 3.30 pm.
The meeting was called to discuss safety measures for passengers using taxis.
The assailant was later identified as K K Tiwari, a leader of “Swabhiman Taxi Riksha Union” led by Congress MLA Nitesh Rane.
According to eye-witnesses, Tiwari attempted to slap Sawlani, who then lost his balance and fell on the ground.
According to a source close to the Uber executive, they decided to ignore the incident and no police complaint was filed.
Tiwari, it emerged later, had also submitted a letter to the state transport commissioner demanding a total shutdown of radio taxi services.
In his letter, he said: “What happened in Delhi should not be repeated in Mumbai… These services shout be shut for security purposes.”
The meeting was called by Transport Commissioner Mahesh Zagade to discuss measures to ensure passenger safety and emergency facilities while ferrying customers.
“Each operator explained the existing mechanism they have to ensure customer safety. We are still not satisfied and I have demanded a foolproof security plan from each operator by December 31,” Zagade said.
A deadline of January 15 has reportedly been set for implementation of the proposed safety measures.
An executive from TabCabs told the Newsline, “We have already set up an extensive system for ensuring passenger safety, which includes GPS as well as emergency contact mechanism. The state government also needs to actively indulge in regulating laws for technology-based services.”
All the licensed operators as well as aggregators were also instructed to submit the database of all the drivers registered with them by Thursday noon and to conduct background check on each driver.
B K Upadhyay, Joint commissioner of police (Traffic), said if the private taxi owners do not follow the deadline, they will be charged under section 115 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and penalized.
Following the rape of the Delhi girl by a taxi driver, a decision to make the chief executive officer of the fleet operator a co-accused in such future cases was also announced by the commissioner.
“We will need police support for that,” Zagade added.
Currently, several cabs have a global positioning system (GPS) that works through the mobile handsets of the drivers, which if switched off can become impossible to trace.
The commissioner on Wednesday asked all operators to install GPS in the vehicles along with setting up infrastructure and software to monitor each vehicle on road.
Sources in the commissioner’s office also confirmed that during the meeting, several operators were found to be negligent in doing a thorough check of driver’s criminal history. In case of Uber, the operator only works for co-ordinating the customer with the driver. “We understood the gaps in their system and we have asked them to plug them at the earliest,” Zagade said.
Meanwhile, MLA Nitesh Rane defended the action of his union leader saying there was immense anger among the public against Uber.
“Services like Uber, Ola and Taxi For Sure may face a ban because of their sole dependence on online applications for services which hamper passenger’s security,” Rane said. (with inputs from Megha Sood)
Police collect data on over 2 lakh taxi drivers
As part of their drive to check the antecedents of taxi drivers in the city, the Mumbai police have collected data of more than two lakh taxi drivers who have been issued badges to date, and have also asked 28 private taxi services in the city to send information about the drivers employed with them.
On Monday, Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria had instructed all city police stations to begin checking if any driver employed with private taxi services in the city had a past criminal record. The move came after an Uber taxi driver was arrested in Delhi for allegedly raping a female passenger.
“We have collected details of all taxi drivers who hold badges from all the Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) in Mumbai. There are a total of 2,46,119 badge-holding taxi drivers working in Mumbai, who either drive yellow top taxis or are employed with private operators. We are checking each name against our records to find out if he has a case registered against him with any police station in the city,” Mumbai police spokesperson DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni said Wednesday.
Maria has set a deadline of December 31 for completing the drive, which police officers described as a “tough but necessary task”. (ENS)