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Ola slams Uber for trivialising rape incident, says it reflects badly on the US firm

Ola says it is despicable that anyone can even conceive an attempt to malign competition using this as an opportunity

Home-grown cab-haling company Ola has alleged that Uber is attempting “to trivialise a horrific” rape incident involving its driver by dragging the Mumbai-based firm into the controversy.

Ola was responding to a report by Recode on the sacking of Eric Alexander, President of Business for Asia Pacific at Uber, who had suspected key rival Ola’s role in the controversy to malign its image. Alexander was fired for obtaining the medical records of the woman passenger, who had been raped during a ride in Delhi in 2014, and showing it to a few top executives including CEO Travis Kalanick.

“It is a shame that the privacy and morals of a woman have to be questioned in an attempt to trivialise a horrific crime,” an Ola spokesperson told e27 in an e-mailed response. “It is despicable that anyone can even conceive an attempt to malign competition using this as an opportunity. If this report were to be even remotely true, this is an all time low on morality and a reflection of the very character of an organisation.”

Also Read: Are gamification tactics used by Uber really unethical or beneficial for driver, rider, and company alike?

The horrific incident happened back in December 2014 when a 27-year-old woman alleged that she had been raped by an Uber driver in New Delhi. As per reports, she got into the Uber cab in south Delhi’s posh Vasant Vihar neighbourhood and was raped on het way to her destination at a secluded location.

A court found the driver guilty and handed him life imprisonment. While Uber apologised for the crime, the government imposed a ban on the company until June 2015. Some of the top executives including Alexander were sceptic about the claims made by the victim and had even suspected Ola’s role in the entire episode.

The shocking incident forced various on-demand taxi companies including Ola to institute rigorous driver vetting process. They also introduced additional security measures on their apps to avoid possible events. 

Uber’s was not the first incident involving the driver associated with a cab-haling company. In 2015, a woman passenger alleged that the driver of a TaxiForSure (a part of Softbank-funded Ola) cab, which she had hired to travel from south Delhi’s Saket to Faridabad in Haryana, was masturbating while driving.

On her social media wall, she had written: “I am usually on calls when in transit, so I had to ask the driver to mellow the music thrice. As I was roughly 25 minutes from my destination, the driver got impatient and started driving brashly. Moreover, he seemed extremely restless, anxious and kept mumbling something to himself. I discontinued my call and asked him to drive properly in the most polite manner possible. I was about to make another call when I noticed that he was masturbating while driving.” She had also mentioned the name of the driver, cab number and other details in the post.

The driver in question was eventually terminated and blacklisted by Ola.

In yet another incident, a driver contracted to Ola had allegedly threatened a passenger with physical harm. This was after the passenger refused to pay for the brake-damage that happened during the trip.

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