Facing local government ban and public anger, Uber India has decided to employ more women drivers to boost customer confidence in the national capital region (NCR).
Partnering with Singapore-based firm iCare, the app -based taxi service - which has been popular among the young for the ease with which a taxi could be hailed - announced that trained women drivers, all of whom had undergone a women chauffeur certification course, will soon be seen on the roads of the capital.
The notion behind the decision is that women would feel safer being driven around by women, especially at night. It is not clear yet if the women drivers will only cater to women customers and whether women will be able to choose the option of getting a woman driver. Also there is no such option available in the app yet.
"We have a tough training programme where the girls are given road training, personal grooming sessions and personality training. We will also give them chilli sprays and pepper sprays," senior iCare executive Revathi Roy, who insisted that self-defence is a "art of the mind", said.
And it is turning out to be a pretty decent deal for the women drivers, too.
"Women feel safe when I ferry them from airport to residence or from one part of the city to another," said Shanno Begum, who is working for Uber and earns up to Rs 25,000 per week. She is perhaps one of the highest paid woman drivers in Delhi.
Shanno said that while there were just 15 women drivers at present, the numbers might soon increase to 70 as more women are being recruited.
"We drive day and night. It depends on how much we have earned on a particular day. Sometimes we are on roads till 3 am in the morning. Besides, we have flexible working hours." Shanno said.
Another woman driver, Santosh Kumari, said, " I have zero waiting time as the demand for cabs is so high in Delhi. The moment I drop a passenger, I get another one on my mobile app, and so on. I am assured of earning up to Rs 3,000 daily."
She further said, "Women drivers have the flexibility of switching off the mobile app and getting back to household chores. And when they are free again, they can open the app and accept a booking."
Uber India, however, was clueless on the road ahead with regard to the ban the government had imposed on it after the rape case. "The Delhi High Court is considering our plea and has called upon the government to respond to our petition and the matter is presently sub-judice and under the consideration of the Hon'ble Court. As the matter is sub-judice, we cannot comment further, but we have full faith in the judicial process," an Uber spokesperson said.
Last December, the Delhi government banned Uber taxi services after a 27-year-old MNC executive was raped in a taxi allegedly by an Uber driver. Subsequently, a woman complained of being molested by a Uber driver in Gurgaon although the driver maintained that he had just shaken her hand.
Uber India is a subsidiary of the San Franciso-based company which operates in many cities around the world but has also run foul of law in several countries and opposed by taxi unions in others.
(Muhammad Zulqarnain Zulfi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)