Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Night travel getting murkier

Night travel getting murkier
Deccan Herald

Bangaloreans, from now on, travel at your own risk. A day after the gangrape of a 30-year-old woman labourer by two city taxi drivers at Jnanabharati campus, everybody, from the proprietor who hired the drivers, to the city taxi fraternity, to the police who are responsible for public safety, have dissociated themselves from the incident.

As the owner of the city taxi agency at Hanumanthnagar was unavailable for comment, questions like why the credentials of the two drivers was not checked before hiring, remains unanswered. Karnataka City Taxi Operators’ Association President T Prabhakar, on his part, admitted that “it is impossible to investigate into the criminal record of the drivers as we hire in large numbers.” Meanwhile, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) M C Narayan Gowda disavowed the police forces’ duty by saying, “we cannot ensure the safety of everybody.”

Shock waves

However, the shock of the incident is not easy to shake off. “This is the first time it has happened that a city taxi driver has been involved. It is a shameful incident for us. We will be more careful in future,” said Naresh Shetty of Canara City Taxi. His words hardly reassure 49-year-old Sudha Krishna of Victoria Layout, whose 23-year-old daughter, an IT professional, travels late at night from Airport Road using city taxis. “She feels safer in a taxi than an auto, as there are communication devices she can seek help from. With taxis too losing its credibility, I will always worry about her safety at night,” Sudha said.

“There is a marked increase in eve-teasing in the city in the last few months. When I walk back from the bus stop around 9 pm, I find even auto-rickshaw drivers whistling at me. How can we trust our lives to these drivers?” asks Sharmishtha, a media professional.

But this lackadaisical attitude of city taxi owners while hiring drivers can be explained by the huge gap between the demand and supply of taxi drivers in the city. “Driving for a city taxi company is stressful because one has to work odd hours. Therefore, not many come forward to work. Usually, companies only check for the badge issued by the RTO that permits the driver to drive public transport,” revealed Prabhakaran.

While complete statistics were not available, it has been estimated that city taxi companies receive around 40,000 calls a day, ferrying over one lakh passengers. One-third of the total trips are made during night, between 10 pm and 7 am.


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