By Rishi Iyengar @iyengarrishi
The Indian capital, New Delhi, cracked down on popular ride-sharing service Uber on Monday afternoon, a few days after a 27-year-old female passenger accused one of its drivers of raping her. The driver was subsequently arrested.
However, authorities said the suspension of Uber’s services is not connected to the alleged attack, but rather to a licensing technicality.
“The services of Uber have been blacklisted. We have just issued an order saying Uber’s activities stand banned in Delhi,” Satish Mathur, the special commissioner of the Delhi Transport Department, told the Economic Times.
Mathur said that Uber had been “misleading customers” by operating on a license known as an All-India permit, which excludes the National Capital Region and New Delhi.
He pointed out that Uber, which raised $1.2 billion in new funding last week that gave it a valuation of some $40 billion, also violated the rules of India’s 2006 Radio Taxi Scheme. The scheme includes provisions for proof of parking spaces, a minimum fleet of 500 vehicles and GPS/GPRS-based tracking devices for each vehicle.
“Uber never applied for any permission to us, is not recognized under the Radio Taxi Rules and has flouted most of the laid-down rules,” he said.
Bloomberg News reported Monday that Shiv Kumar Yadav, a driver who allegedly raped an Uber passenger in Delhi on Dec. 6, had previously served seven months in judicial custody for raping a passenger in his taxi in Delhi, before being acquitted.
“Uber has not done any verifications for its drivers in Delhi or the national capital region, something all taxis must do,” Bloomberg quoted Madhur Verma, Deputy Commissioner of Police for the capital’s north district, as saying. “The record suggests Uber is less safe than other taxi services that have fulfilled all permit requirements.”
However, a document circulated on social media Monday purporting to be a certificate from the south-eastern district of Delhi that confirmed Vadar had no criminal record. It wasn’t possible to verify the document, or to check insinuations that it had been acquired improperly.
Uber said in a statement on its website that “Safety is our #1 priority” and called the incident “an abhorrent crime.”
“Our thoughts remain with the victim who has shown tremendous courage under the circumstances,” it added.
The incident is the latest in a string of episodes which have called the company’s safety or integrity into question. Last month, a senior executive suggested digging dirt on hostile journalists in order to silence them. The company distanced itself from Emil Michael’s comments, but has kept him in his position.
But India’s problems with women’s safety go well beyond Uber. Reported rapes have risen by over 50% in a decade, and the country has been shocked this year by a spate of horrific incidents that have highlighted a nationwide problem, from backward rural districts to the public transport systems of its biggest cities.