UBER in India. . . and out so fast!
When I visited New Delhi in March of this year, I was pleasantly surprised at the range of reliable taxi services now available. In prior years, my experience with the prevailing transport options has been disheartening. While yellow-topped black taxis operate in most cities, their reputation precedes them. "A young woman can't be over careful with unknown cabbies," my mom warns, even though I'm now a mother of two nearly grown children.
That's not the only problem; even where taxis are metered, drivers sometimes refuse to use the meter, claiming that it's broken and demand an elevated 'fixed' fare instead.
As for public transportation, such as, local buses--slight shudder--I can still recall the pinches and prods I received from male passengers in overcrowded buses; behavior that was euphemistically termed "eve-teasing."
The only viable option, during previous visits, was to hire a car and driver for the duration of my stay. I did the same at the time of this visit, but when my driver fell sick and I had to get to a dinner party, friends urged me to use Radio Taxi. I'd heard rave reviews from a friend in San Francisco who swears by Radio Taxi and I have to say I was impressed. When I called to arrange a pick-up the operator took down by information in perfect English; I got a text beforehand to notify me that the driver was on his way and the fare was as per miles traveled.
"Just like Uber." I clapped my hands in delight. "The only thing missing is Google Maps."
And now for the shocking news: Uber debuted in India excatly a year ago. But instead of breaking out the iced champagne, they've landed in some pretty hot water.
Three days ago, Uber was banned in New Delhi after one of the taxi-app's drivers was accused of raping a woman over the weekend. The woman alleges that the driver attacked her after she fell asleep while he was taking her home from a dinner. It turns out this driver was arrested for sexual assault allegations three years ago. Hah! The ironic thing is that Uber did actually get a police "character certificate" for this driver. But as anybody who has done business in India knows, a small bribe in the right place will fix most records.
Uber's CEO says the company will work with the victim and her family, and make sure justice is served. This new accusation hits a very raw nerve in India, where its ongoing issue with sexual violence against women has gained even more attention since a young woman was gang raped and killed on a bus in New Delhi in 2012. It's also a big setback for Uber, which has hit a lot of roadblocks with governments as it tries to grow. So far, the list of other countries where Uber has lost approval includes Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, India, Japan, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand.
Sigh. From the looks of it, my transport options in New Delhi are back to where they started. In other words, nil to extremely limited!