By Elton Gomes
Taking into consideration the increasing cases of women being harassed by drivers, the government is set to talk with cab aggregators like Ola and Uber to arrange for an “exclusive women pooling” system. The option will allow women to chose their own passengers.
A senior government official said that the union road transport and highways ministry will soon call for a meeting with cab aggregators to discuss the issue.
“This is one option we are mulling to enhance 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,” a government official told the Hindustan Times.
Union women and child minister (WCD) Maneka Gandhi deliberated over the idea of exclusive women pooling and had stated that her ministry would discuss the move with the road ministry. However, the discussion did not take place at a meeting between the WCD and the road ministry.
The trigger for the meeting was an incident reported on June 5 when an Ola cab driver in Bengaluru allegedly forced a female passenger to strip inside the cab. The driver then clicked her photos and even threatened to gangrape her. The police subsequently arrested the driver.
In terms of introducing a women pooling option, an Uber spokesperson said an interview with the Hindustan Times that the company is committed to ensuring passenger safety, “We are committed to working with the government and other stakeholders towards partnering on road as well as rider, driver safety initiatives and moving our cities forward.”
What can be done to ensure safety of women
Although Ola and Uber have features for safety of passengers, their security records still show several instances of harassment and molestation. Concerning the Bengaluru incident, Seemanth Kumar Singh, Additional Commissioner of Bengaluru police, told Quartz that the police had verified the background of the driver. Singh believes that the driver was unaware that the authorities have his details, which made him think he could escape.
Amitabh Kumar, head of media and communications at the Centre for Social Research, told Quartz,“Most of the new young drivers come from a patriarchal mindset. Hence, they need thorough gender sensitisation. It helps to inform the drivers about dos and don’ts.” At a time when stringent checks don’t seem to be working, gender sensitisation might be a way to reduce crimes against women.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.