How safe are you on your cab rides?

Mum­bra woman’s death in ac­ci­dent and sub­se­quent ac­tions of Uber raises se­ri­ous safety con­cerns with cab ag­gre­ga­tors

Mid Day - - FRONT PAGE - VINOD KU­MAR MENON vin­odm@mid-day.com

THE ser­vices of taxi ag­gre­ga­tors have come un­der se­vere cen­sure fol­low­ing mid-day’s re­port on July 12 about 35year-old Tanzila Shaikh who lost her life on June 14 af­ter the Uber cab she was in crashed into a sta­tion­ary garbage truck at Bhandup. Amitesh Ku­mar, joint CP (traf­fic), has taken cog­nizance of mid-day’s ex­clu­sive re­port on the in­ci­dent and said he would be meet­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of all such ag­gre­ga­tors soon.

‘It was a ba­sic car, with­out air bags or ABS. Uber had given me an iPhone for track­ing. When I called the cus­tomer care num­ber for driv­ers af­ter the ac­ci­dent, they told me to get ad­mit­ted and show the app at the hospi­tal. I was told the med­i­cal ex­penses would be taken care of by Uber’ In­der­jit Singh, driver

“FROM the safety as­pect of pas­sen­gers, and in light of the re­cent in­ci­dent re­ported and other cases that have come to our no­tice, we will be call­ing in Uber and other ap­pli­ca­tion based cab ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tives for a meet­ing soon.” He added, “We are in the process of com­ing up with a QR code and In­frared Code for reg­u­lar black and yel­low taxis from the com­muter safety point of view. Ola and Uber are given per­mits by the State Trans­port Com­mis­sioner of­fices and have to fol­low their per­mit norms.”

Can­cel Uber’s li­cence: WIAA

The Western In­dia Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion (WIAA), one of the largest mo­tor­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions in Asia, has de­manded the strictest ac­tion against the driver and Uber. “We will be hav­ing a meet­ing with the trans­port min­is­ter soon af­ter the mon­soon ses­sion is over and will in­sist that Uber’s li­cence be can­celled. We have re­ceived nu­mer­ous com­plaints against Uber driv­ers and have time and again raised this con­cern with them but noth­ing has changed,” said Nitin Dossa, ex­ec­u­tive chair­man, WIAA.

He added, “We are also shocked that in­stead of im­me­di­ately re­vok­ing/sus­pend­ing the li­cence of the driver, In­der­jit Singh, all au­thor­i­ties [po­lice, traf­fic depart­ment and trans­port com­mis­sioner’s of­fice] are wait­ing for pa­per­work to be com­pleted first,” he said.

Po­lice sur­geon to act on com­plaint

Dossa said, “It is dis­heart­en­ing to learn the trauma that the fam­ily had to go through. First, the demise of their loved one in a hor­rific ac­ci­dent, and then mo­tor ve­hi­cle in­surance agents ap­proach­ing the fam­ily ask­ing for a cut from the com­pen­sa­tion. We will de­mand a high-level probe against such in­surance agents and in­sist that the sanad (li­cence) of the lawyers sup­port­ing these agents be can­celled im­me­di­ately. We will help the fam­ily ap­proach the Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Ac­ci­dent Tri­bunal, with no cut in com­pen­sa­tion.” On mid-day’s re­port that in­for­ma­tion about the fam­ily was be­ing passed on to in­surance agents by post­mortem cen­tre staff, Dr SM Patil, po­lice sur­geon and medico le­gal ad­vi­sor to the state govern­ment, said he was aghast. Muza­m­mil Shaikh, Tanzila’s hus­band, had said he re­ceived calls from two lawyers who of­fered him as­sis­tance in fil­ing the Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent claim at the tri­bunal against com­mis­sion of 21 per cent of the com­pen­sa­tion amount. Dr Patil said, “We will be con­duct­ing sur­prise checks through dummy agents to nab the cul­prits at post­mortem cen­tres who are leak­ing in­for­ma­tion.” He cau­tioned post­mortem staff against this prac­tice, fail­ing which he promised se­ri­ous ac­tion against the staff for dere­lic­tion of duty.

Fam­ily still mourn­ing

Muza­m­mil Shaikh, Tanzila’s hus­band, had learned that the car in which she was trav­el­ling did not have any GPS con­nec­tion to track the ve­hi­cle. The only track­ing de­vice was the iPhone that the driver had got from Uber, which once switched off, would be im­pos­si­ble to trace. It also turned out that the driver had sev­eral speed­ing vi­o­la­tions against his name.

Muza­m­mil said when he un­locked Tanzila’s mo­bile phone a day af­ter she had died, he was shocked to find a mes­sage from Uber say­ing that her trip had been com­pleted (Gore­gaon to Airoli) and they had deb­ited her Paytm ac­count of R568.10. Tanzila was killed at Bhandup, a long way from Airoli.

He said, “I know that un­less the driver reaches the des­ti­na­tion and the same is not dis­played on the iPhone GPS, the trip is not com­plete and no charges can be levied be­fore that, as the sys­tem does not even know the ex­act fare till then. Why is Uber not able to an­swer how the sys­tem showed the trip as ‘com­pleted’?” Af­ter com­plaints by Muza­m­mil, the amount was re­funded by Uber.

Muza­m­mil is up­set with the fact that Uber, in­stead of own­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity, is pass­ing the buck to the driver. “I asked the Uber cus­tomer sup­port about the com­pen­sa­tion pol­icy in case of a death, as the ve­hi­cle and driver were as­so­ci­ated with their com­pany. The staff said Uber did not have any com­pen­sa­tion pol­icy and that the ac­ci­dent was due to the part­ner driver and it is he who should be pay­ing com­pen­sa­tion,” he said.

Driver ad­mits car did not have GPS

The driver, In­der­jeet Singh, 59, said he had been work­ing with a pri­vate travel agent in And­heri on a salary of R15,000. Just three to four months ago, his em­ployer had tied up with Uber, and ever since he had been fer­ry­ing cus­tomers for the ag­gre­ga­tor.

Singh said, “It was a ba­sic car, with no safety fea­tures like air bag or ABS wheels, etc. Uber had given me an iPhone for track­ing. When I called the cus­tomer care num­ber for driv­ers soon af­ter the ac­ci­dent, they told me to get ad­mit­ted to a hospi­tal and show the mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion at the hospi­tal. I was told that the en­tire med­i­cal ex­penses would be taken care of by Uber.”

While the driver claims that the car had speed gover­nors and he could not have been speed­ing at 100 kmph, ex­perts say these claims will be rub­bished once the RTO team in­spects the car.

mid-day’s re­port on June 12

The car af­ter the crash; (be­low) Tanzila Shaikh, the vic­tim

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