Rape fallout: West Bengal Govt puts 5,000 applications for Ola permits on hold, wants data on drivers

“We will not issue any new permit to Ola until they satisfy us by fulfilling the criteria set by the transport department,” said state Transport Minister Subhendu Adhikari.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata | Published: September 3, 2016 12:42:48 am

Following the incident where Ola drivers raped a minor in a moving car here, state Transport Minister Subhendu Adhikari said Ola operators will be required to submit data of all drivers working under them.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Adhikari said, “We have clearly given Ola cab operators a condition. They have to submit to us data of all the drivers on board with them. All the drivers must have a background clearance certificate issued by the local police station. If not, we might cancel the license of Ola in the near future.”

He further added that 5,000 proposals from Ola requesting permits were put on hold. “We will not issue any new permit to Ola until they satisfy us by fulfilling the criteria set by the transport department.”

Ola had received a temporary license to operate in Bengal around June. The state transport department issued a showcause notice to Ola post the incident.

A senior transport department official said, “The authentication of residential addresses, educational and criminal records is typically outsourced to third-party background verification companies by cab operators in India. Outside India, every taxi company requires drug screening and live-scan fingerprinting at the local police department before issuing a taxi driver permit.”

A source from a cab service provider in Kolkata said that the agencies usually take between seven and 10 days to give a report, and charge between Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 per candidate.

“It is the responsibility of the car owner as well to cross-check the background of the driver,” a police officer said. In the recent case, a minor girl was abducted, gangraped and then was murdered in an Ola cab that belonged to a different man, who in turn had hired Guddu Singh to drive it. “Getting a good driver is the biggest challenge, since most of them have migrated from smaller towns, and do not have a fixed residential address. In most cases, they do not have any proof of residence as mandated by authorities to issue a Police Clearance Certificate. It is difficult to establish all other addresses a person has resided in the country over previous years in the absence of residential proof or documentation. One has to rely on the applicant to disclose the addresses in order to check criminal records in all those police stations across the country,” said Mahendra Kumar Singh, a cab owner.

The system in which background checks have become just a formality needs to be changed, transport officials said, adding that it is important to carefully monitor, assess and report the methodology behind background checks to ensure there are no gaps.

“It looks like all these firms want someone to shift the blame in case of an unfortunate incident. I am shocked that police couldn’t stop a moving car where a girl was being raped. I was even more shocked to know that Guddu Singh, the accused, is a known criminal and yet managed to get a clearance certificate. This shows how things work here,” said Nidhi Shaw, who no longer uses app-based cab services after being harassed by a driver.

Guddu was arrested in a robbery case in 2013, and had been driving cabs for Ola since his release around two months ago.

A tea seller at Khidderpore, where Guddu had been staying, said, “He is drunk most of the time. He had a bad image in the locality since he is often found passing lewd comments on girls. He has been involved in many small crimes since he was 11. I don’t know much, but he was also in jail for some time.”

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