Masturbation, Drunk Driving: Women Share Scary App Cab Stories
This year, until April 15, Delhi Police recorded 1,600 cases of crimes against women across categories. In the same duration last year, Delhi Police had recorded 563 cases of rapes. The data found that more than five women are raped every day in the national capital region. We are all too familiar with the rise in crime, especially against women, and moreover since the app-based cab companies became popular, women are reporting uncomfortable instances in their day to day journeys. If women start filing complaints about all the incidents that happen to them, they’ll have to forget their jobs and keep making the rounds of police stations every other day.
On Monday, a girl with the Twitter handle Namaah, tweeted about a frightening incident that happened to her during a cab ride.
“I was just sexually harassed by one of your drivers. Girdhari Lal used explicit language to describe me to someone (whilst on his phone) and made vulgar remarks, implying he wanted to harm me.
This man knows where I live. Please intervene,” she tweeted to Uber.
In a Twitter thread, she explained how even after having privileges and feeling strong, she felt vulnerable in this situation. She reiterated how the driver knows where she lives and now she’ll have to live in fear of repercussions because she reported the driver.
While Uber responded to the tweet with an unsatisfactory response, Mumbai Police also asked the woman to connect with them to take this further.
But how long will we have to fall back on Twitter shoutouts before women in the country feel safe in a cab ride?
WOMEN TELL THEIR SCARY CAB INCIDENTS
Many women opened up to SheThePeople.TV about such unpleasant cab rides when they felt horrified, unsafe or uncomfortable.
Faridabad-resident Pooja Aggarwal told us how once when she booked a cab from Greater Kailash area to Malviya Nagar in Delhi, her cab driver took longer routes and kept going into narrow secluded lanes. “I kept telling him to take me from the main road but he didn’t agree. He said that his GPS was showing him the path and he will only follow the GPS. After a point, I lost my cool and had to yell at him to reach my destination. Although I did get late for my meeting,” she said.
“I felt scared and lost,” Pooja added. She did not report the incident because she didn’t find it big enough to complain about it. She feels that “Anyway so many cases don’t get any redressal.”
In another incident, Shreya Sinha—a journalist working in Delhi—narrated her tryst with a cabbie, where on a simple request of lowering the AC temperature, the driver threatened her to drop her off midway on a highway. “AC nahi badhega, ya toh mooh bandh kar ke baitho, mera dimaag kharab hua toh yahi utar dunga (I won’t increase air-conditioning. Either sit while you keep your mouth shut or if I get mad then I’ll drop you off right here),” the driver said to Sinha.
Since the customer care for these cab aggregators take such a long time to process a complaint, the drivers get the appalling power to harass and abuse their passengers without thinking twice.
As Sinha told us, “I did write about it on various social media platforms, a news website even covered the issue. But I am still not aware of what actions they took.”
What should a woman do in a case where the driver is drunk? Should she take him to the police station? But how is that possible when he can see the location and can harm you before reaching your destination? In one of the incidents that Mishika Nagpal described, she took a morning cab around 10.30 from Faridabad to her office in Gurgaon. “The route is such that it is sort of secluded and scary. But since it was morning time, I didn’t mind it. I took the cab and in some time, I could smell alcohol in the cab. Apparently, the driver was drunk and sleepy and was driving at a snail’s speed.”
Since Nagpal was getting late, she requested the driver to drive faster. To this, he replied that he couldn’t since his licence got suspended yesterday because of this precise reason.
“I was so worried that I even asked him if he was alright since he couldn’t keep his eyes open and he told me that it was because he couldn’t sleep well last night. That ride still gives me jitters and I thank my destiny to have reached my office after panicking through the cab journey,” she said.
You know the situation is alarming when such cases become a norm.
And then there are cases which absolutely stun us all. Anu Chatterjee, who is currently living in Mumbai, recollected an incident that happened while she was in New Delhi. “I was coming back home from Pahargunj and there was no cab available for Noida. I had no other option but to choose a shared Ola. We picked up the other passenger who seemed like a 20 something and wanted to get down at Mayur Vihar.
Within minutes this passenger started masturbating next to me. He tried to hide his penis by using his bag as a shield but anyone could make out what he was up to. He was staring and doing his thing. The driver didn’t know what to do and it was quite late. I panicked (I shouldn’t have, I should have taken him to the nearest police station) but I asked the driver to stop the car, I got down and took the front seat instead,” said Chatterjee.
While this happened with her over a year ago but even today she feels guilty, she says. “I should have made his life a living hell. I should have dragged him to the police station but it was a scary situation and one too many what ifs were going on in my mind.”
ARE THERE ANY SOLUTIONS?
We need to have a better system in place to check such incidents and provide safer alternatives to women. Not every woman has a Twitter account and not every tweet gets standard virality for the Police or cab customer care to get in touch with survivors and take actions, like in Sinha’s case.
Women and Child Development Ministry recently announced that women in a ride-sharing cab can ask the driver to not take male passengers if she feels uncomfortable. It may be a well-intentioned initiative, but it is full of loopholes. Today, women deal with cab drivers who can pick a fight on something as small as turning down the AC temperature. In such a scenario, it is difficult to gauge how much will cab drivers listen to women passengers when they ask them to potentially cut down on their next income? In such cases, cab drivers can easily flout this order and refuse women to take the cab which could be a scary situation in secluded areas and at odd timings.
One of the solutions that Aggarwal suggests is that cab-aggregator start-ups should have more cabs driven by women drivers. “Today we see women driving cars all around the cities then why is it that we don’t see women cab-drivers that much?” Rightfully so, it won’t just expand opportunities for women but also make several women financially self-dependent. Businesses like OLA and UBER must come up with strategies that can promote driving as a lucrative career among women.
All of us women take these cab rides all over the country every day so let’s not make it an issue like it is only the cab drivers who are the issue. We see sexual violence and harassment happening everywhere. The discourse of the lower class young man being the problem is a larger issue because it isn’t just those men.
Safetipin founder Kalpana Vishwanathan, who has worked enormously in the area of incorporating gender safety in public spaces, spoke to us about cab safety. “We need much more stringent induction process for cab drivers. What happens is 90-95% of cab drivers are fine, so one thing is that we must not demonize all taxi drivers. All of us women take these cab rides all over the country every day so let’s not make it an issue like it is only the cab drivers who are the issue. We see sexual violence and harassment happening everywhere. The discourse of the lower class young man being the problem is a larger issue because it isn’t just those men.”
“Having said that, with the growth of these cab aggregators, there are many people who were never drivers before, never exposed to the city or this occupation have become cab drivers all of a sudden. So the companies need to invest in initial training, gender sensitization training for every cab driver. They should also tell the drivers of specific consequences because the companies have their identity information. They can collaborate with city/ state police to instil fear of the law in the drivers in case they commit some crime,” added Vishwanathan.
Picture credit- Cabo San Lucas Tour