December 2014 sent shockwaves through the country for a crime that occurred in the capital exactly two years after the 'Nirbhaya' rape. This time, the victim was an unsuspecting passenger without a friend, the rapist was her driver, and the vehicle in which the crime occurred was a cab, not a bus.
No, I am not oversimplifying two gruesome crimes. I am highlighting the difference in reaction to the two incidents.
While the whole country stood in support of the December 2012 gang rape victim, and rightly questioned rape culture and accused the rapist for the crime, and not the girl, the same sensibility was not in the least extended to the December 2014 'Uber rape' survivor.
In this article dated December 8, 2014, I had expressed anguish over how the media, as well as every cab-using, urbane youth, had completely disregarded the woman and her situation in order to shower abuses on the cab company.
Suddenly, the possibility of getting sexually assaulted seemed too real to the non-bus boarding privileged people. A rape could occur in a cab? Easy solution, let's ban the cab company. Actually, let's ban every app-friendly cab company.
While this absurd 'solution', that for some reason seemed logical to our law makers, was bizarre the first time, it was ABSOLUTELY outrageous the second time. Yes, after another case of molestation in an Uber cab in Gurgaon on June 2, the cab company was banned in the city again. And this week it's back.
So, pray, what changed in the span of a few weeks? Did the man repent? Did Uber/Ola/Taxi4Sure develop a magical device to sense potential rapists? Did cabs develop auto eject buttons for rapist drivers?
You might think my suggestions as absurd, but then how absurd is the government's sense of just action? Women around Delhi have been more inconvenienced, and thrown into potentially unsafe situations, more while they can't call cabs than while they can. And I do not require statistics to prove that, by virtue of being a working woman in Delhi.
But in order to gauge a sense of how cab companies (namely Uber) affect the lives of those living in the capital, I asked a few questions, and got some interesting responses.
Digant Raj Kapoor, 25, Delhi
If not cab, what?
The metro's greatest features are its cost-effectiveness and punctuality. The metro is great, but aggressive pushing, watching out for pick-pockets, proximity of unhygienic commuters, and lack of seating doesn't always make for a comfortable ride. Female friends have the added fear of social and physical sexual harassment. Crimes on the metro do not result in calls for the metro to be banned.
Aakanksha Magan, 25, Haridwar
I once took a TaxiForSure cab late at night and I was drunk. The cab driver charged me double the amount of the bill and at that time I paid him. And when the next morning I realized that I had overpaid, I called the company and they refused to acknowledge it. They said the receipt was of 230 and the driver also deposited 230 so they can't help me.
On a positive note though, I once forgot my cellphone in the Ola cab and the driver came back 17 kms from Noida to Saket to return it to me at 5 in the morning.
Chris Smith, 22, United Kingdom
I take a cab between South Delhi and Noida each day for my internship. On the Monday following the ban, I tried for three hours to get a cab and eventually gave up. The next few days I managed to get a cab by leaving a little earlier, as it seems some, but not many drivers, forwent the risk of getting impounded.
Gayatri Singh, 27, Delhi
Convenience, safety , efficiency, accountability. In that order.
Utkarsh Rastogi, 23, Delhi
A memorable experience?
I'd gotten into a small accident and had to send my car in for repairs. I completely switched over to Uber for transport for the next week. Nothing else could beat the convenience of a cab coming to my location with a tap and dropping me off at the final destination, plus I didn't have to worry about cash.
Bhuvikaa Jain, 21, Jaipur
Did the ban cripple you?
It definitely did, I usually take a cab to work and back. Also, it is the only safe way to commute late in the nights . I found myself stuck in the overcrowded metros.
Anmol Soin, 24, Ludhiana
Biggest plus point?
Real time updates. Booking, time estimates and if someone else is travelling I can have a real time update of their location .
Isha Jalan, 23, Chandigarh
Why not public transport?
Good old pubic transport at 11 pm? I don't want to get raped.
As much as I am concerned about Uber's safety issues, it really was a go-to for me when I didn't want to brave the heat, or when it got too late to travel in public transport. It was also the cheapest. I think in a city like ours, one can never ensure complete safety. Banning cabs won't help one bit.
Passengers have spoken, and the consensus is clear. Banning is no solution.
Instead, can we have those promised CCTVs and better lit streets and the like? There's no point in a blame game if nothing beneficial is done to better the situation regarding safety.
While we earnestly hope there's no 'next time', but if there is, can we think beyond knee-jerk and put some real systems in place?