Govt planning “exclusive women pooling” option in cabs like Uber and Ola to let females choose co-passengers for their safety

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Govt planning “exclusive women pooling” option in cabs like Uber and Ola
Govt planning “exclusive women pooling” option in cabs like Uber and Ola

Govt will soon hold talks with private cab operators like Uber and Ola in this regard in the aftermath of the June 5 incident where an Ola driver in Bengaluru allegedly had molested a female passenger and forced her to strip

The Hush Post: The government is planning to speak to private cab operators like Uber and Ola to explore an “exclusive women pooling” option to women passengers, in wake of incidents where female passengers were harassed, molested or attacked by drivers or co-passengers, a report said on Thursday.

The Union road transport and highways ministry is planning to hold a meeting of taxi operators soon to discuss the matter, an official was quoted.

“This is one option we are mulling to enhance the safety of women using shared taxi services. We strongly feel that women passengers using ride-hailing services should have the option to choose their co-passengers,” another official, was quoted as saying.

Recently, Union Women and Child (WCD) Minister Maneka Gandhi had mooted the idea of giving women passengers the option of choosing co-passengers. The WCD Minister had said that her ministry will discuss it with the road ministry, the report said.

However, this matter was not discussed at a meeting between road and WCD ministries officials on Wednesday.

The meeting took a stock of the measures pertaining to the women safety using ride-hailing services. The trigger for the meeting was the June 5 incident in which an Ola cab driver in Bengaluru allegedly forced a woman passenger to strip. The driver was subsequently arrested by the police, it was reported.

In context with an exclusively women-pooling option, an Uber spokesperson was quoted as saying: “We believe that technologies like Uber provide an incredible opportunity to improve the safety of riders and driver partners in new and innovative ways — before, during and after every ride. Over the years, we have introduced and integrated many safety features on our app for our riders and drivers and continue to innovate. We are committed to working with the government and other stakeholders towards partnering on the road as well as the rider, driver safety initiatives and moving our cities forward.”

Meanwhile, an Ola spokesperson sought time till to respond.

In the meeting held on Wednesday that was also attended by representatives from Uber and Ola, the cab operators were asked to put in place a fool-proof mechanism to track any route diversion by drivers. “There should be an automatic response in case of route diversion and those tracking the vehicle movement should immediately contact the driver and the passenger,” an official of the road ministry who attended the meeting was quoted as saying.

The cab operators were also asked to share the standard operating procedure that they follow while recruiting drivers.

Notably, the 2016 taxi guidelines, issued by the road ministry, specifies that taxi aggregators should have an emergency response centre to handle SOS alerts by passengers and should also have adequate safety features for the passengers such as sharing the details of a ride. Currently, both Uber and Ola apps have panic buttons that users can press in case of an emergency, the report said.

The existing Motor Vehicle Act does not cover taxi aggregators. But, the Motor Vehicle Act (Amendment) bill 2017, which is pending in Parliament, has brought such services under it. Violating the licensing norm will result in aggregators being fine between Rs 25,000 and Rs 1 lakh, it was reported.

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