Perplexingly, the government in the Indian capital of Delhi is responding rather differently than the United States to accusations of rape against Uber drivers.
On Friday, a 26-year-old woman ordered a taxi in Delhi using the Uber app. Instead of being taken to the restaurant that was her destination, she says, she was driven to a deserted area and raped. The driver was arrested on Sunday and is in custody. He will be formally charged with rape.
In response, the Delhi Transportation Department “has banned all activities relating to providing any transport service by the www.Uber.com with immediate effect,” reports Agence France-Presse, the global news outlet that publishes the Times of India.
As for Uber, CEO Travis Kalanick says the company will “work with the government to establish clear background checks currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs.” That statement calls into question why on earth Uber, which operates in 51 countries and claims to be the safest transportation option known to man, would be operating in an environment where adequate background checks aren’t possible.
Of course, Uber in the United States hardly has a reputation for being much better than in Delhi.
As The Daily Beast has extensively reported, Uber has long been plagued by accusations against its drivers of rape, other forms of sexual assault, physical assault, verbal assault, kidnapping, and high-speed chases. Uber’s responses to these alleged incidents generally have fallen into one of three categories: aggressively dismissive, indifferent, or passively remorseful.
One of those incidents came last December, when a driver for the company fatally struck 6-year-old Sofia Liu in a crosswalk. Uber severed ties with him, and on Monday he was charged with misdemeanor vehicular homicide. An Uber attorney told BuzzFeed of the case: “Uber and its affiliated companies sympathize with the Liu family and understand their desire for redress for their loss and their injuries. However, [Uber and its affiliated companies] did not cause this tragic accident.”
Just to reiterate the hollowness of Kalanick’s latest promise to work on background checks in Delhi: When Uber drivers in the United States have been found to have prior felony convictions, like one accused of assaulting his passenger in San Diego, the company has responded by assuring reporters like me that yes, the driver passed its background check process, and what’s more, its background check process is top of the line.
Uber’s valuation has been placed anywhere from $17 billion to $40 billion, though some are beginning to question whether it’s warranted. Can’t imagine why.This post has been updated.