New Delhi bans Uber after rape allegations
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Transportation authorities in the Indian capital of New Delhi on Monday banned Uber after a female passenger was allegedly raped by one of the online taxi service’s drivers, according to media reports.
"(The) Transport Department has banned all activities relating to providing any transport service by the www.Uber.com with immediate effect," news agency AFP reported, quoting from a government statement.
The ban came days after a 25-year-old woman said she was raped by a driver hired through the popular mobile app. Police said a medical examination had backed up her allegation. The driver of the taxi was arrested on Sunday.
Friday's alleged sexual attack has dealt a major blow to the reputation of the San Francisco-based company, which operates in dozens of countries.
The company claims to put passengers' safety first and has said it was cooperating with the police investigations into the incident.
Earlier Monday, the company sent a text message in Hindi to its drivers telling them to stand together “in these difficult times” and promising that, “Uber is not going anywhere,” according to the leading NDTV station.
But within hours, Delhi authorities had “blacklisted” the company for “misleading customers”, a transportation official told local reporters.
Driver switched off GPS, fled
The ban came as the alleged rapist, 32-year-old Shiv Kumar Yadav, appeared before a New Delhi court, where he was expected to be formally charged with raping the financial company executive, who has not been named, on Friday evening.
Police said the driver stopped the taxi at a remote location, assaulted the female passenger and then dropped her near her residence in northern Delhi after warning her not to inform the authorities. She managed to note the driver's number and take a photograph of his car, they said.
The driver, who was untraceable because the car did not have a GPS system, switched off his phone, disabling Uber from being able to track his location via its app, according to NDTV. The car was found on Saturday and Yadav was located in his home state of Uttar Pradesh a day later.
Police accuse Uber of failing to check whether the driver had a clean police record or had a satellite location device in his car. According to the Press Trust of India, police were working to verify Yadav's claims that he had been acquitted of rape charges in 2011, after spending seven months in jail.
Uber however has said there were no defined rules in India on background checks for commercial transport licences and it was working with the government to address the issue.
Ban is massive blow
The shocking sexual assault occured almost exactly two years after the fatal gang rape of another young woman taking public transport in New Delhi. That case led to nationwide protests and forced the government to address demands for heavier sentences for rape.
The attack is the latest to draw attention to the dangers faced by women in the world's second-most populous nation. Even after the enactment of new laws imposing stricter penalties and establishing fast-track courts, India is struggling to control the rampant sexual harassment of women.
The New Delhi ban is a blow for Uber, which has courted acclamation and controversy around the world with a service based on hailing taxis from a smartphone app. It has faced restrictions in other countries after licensed taxi operators claimed the service was competing unfairly.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)