The Delhi government, which is virtually the Union government as there is no state government to speak of, has decided to ban Uber, the taxi company that contracted the driver who allegedly raped a rider. Uber’s faults are two-fold: one, it did not do any kind of background check on the driver, and two, it operates almost in a secret fashion with no telephone number or a call centre available to the public.
However, is banning the solution? Not really, as it does not serve any purpose. The core issue is rape, not regulation of taxi companies, which is secondary in nature. No one denies the right of the government to impose strictures on Uber (or any other taxi company, for that matter) so that crimes are not committed by their contractors or employees (Uber has only contractors, and not employees like other taxi firms).
Rape is an urgent law and order issue to be tackled, and it has social and cultural sidebars. It is nobody’s argument that schools, parks, abandoned mills, roads, police stations, etc should be banned because rapes have taken place there, too. That the National Commission for Women also asked for a ban on Uber is even more distressing.
The real question to be answered is this: Is our criminal justice system equipped enough to mete justice to perpetrators? Do victims have to wait for years? Perhaps the biggest deterrent to crime is the knowledge that you will not get away scot-free.
In fact, in the case of Uber, the driver had been given a clean chit by the Delhi Police despite being arrested in a rape case a few years ago. Therefore, even if Uber had done a background check, it would have been of no value.
The government needs to take a rational, long-term call on judicial and police reforms, which have been hanging fire for decades.
Knee-jerk reactions may pacify the public temporarily, but it will be like the doctor who never attempts to attack the root cause, but only gives painkillers.