Updated: December 10, 2014 1:06:35 pm
Days after a woman executive in Delhi alleged she was raped by a cab driver she hired through Uber, the US-based firm’s India GM Gagan Bhatia told police that his company was just an “aggregator” that did not conduct any verification of the drivers it engaged. But just last month, an Uber spokesman had told a woman customer in Mumbai quite the opposite.
Replying to an email from Shirin Talwar, a recruitment consultant living in South Mumbai, the spokesman assured that “each of our driver partners are put through a rigorous quality control process” that includes “routine checks of drivers’ licence and vehicle records”.
Talwar told The Indian Express that she had often used Uber’s services and had written to the company’s spokesperson on November 2, after one such trip, to ask whether they conducted any background checks on its drivers.
“I’m glad you asked that question and I’ll be more than happy to allay your concerns,” said the reply that Talwar received the next day.
“Globally and especially in India, Uber is working towards making urban transit safer for women. Let me tell you, it’s one of our biggest concerns and we’re doing a number of things to drive that agenda.
“In addition to their individual employers screening them, each of our driver partners are put through a rigorous quality control process, that is implemented religiously across the country even before a partner gets behind the wheel of your vehicle. In fact screening for safe drivers is just the beginning of our safety efforts.
”Our process includes prospective and routine checks of drivers’ license and vehicle records to ensure ongoing safe driving. Unlike the taxi industry, our background checking process and standards are so detailed, it is often more rigorous than what is required to become a taxi driver. Moreover, most of our partners are introduced to us via our preferred partners, which means that someone in the system has to vouch for their track record, creating a referral system of trust.”
The spokesman added that Uber had also joined hands with NGOs and other women drivers to “create a safer in-transit atmosphere across India”.
An unconvinced Talwar wrote again to the spokesperson but the second reply, she said, was also ambiguous. “I can assure you that our efforts are towards ensuring our supply eco-system is trustworthy, given the backdrop of women’s safety in our country,” the spokesperson replied.
Talwar wrote again, after she read about the rape allegation in Delhi. “It was waiting to happen and it has in Delhi,” she wrote in the email. There was no response.
The Indian Express tried to contact the spokesperson independently – once again, there was no response.
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