Jhala's head injury required a four-hour-long surgery after which he was on ventilator support. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Mahavir Jhala, a 48-year-old resident of Ghatkopar East, sustained an internal head injury when an Ola cab driver allegedly assaulted him in Pune a month ago. The attack left him unconscious and on ventilator support for over 24 hours, and with 54 stitches to his head.
The head injury still leads to frequent vertigo and Jhala says it has left his speech slurred. On February 18, Jhala, his wife and their two children left the city for a pilgrimage to Ambegaon in Pune district. After arriving in Pune city at 10 am, he booked an Ola cab to get to Ambegaon, around 20 km away.
The Ola driver, Kailas Raut, arrived in a white Indica soon after. Just 3 km into their journey, Raut claimed that their ride had been cancelled and told them to get off.
The family was confused but didn't want to pick an argument with the boorish driver. "We got off, paid our fare of R97 and booked another cab," said Kripal (18), Jhala's son.
When the next driver, Balasaheb Jadhav, arrived a few minutes later, the family realised that they had forgotten a bag in Raut's car. "We called Raut and asked him to meet us, but he refused. We requested him repeatedly to return our bag so that we could be on our way, but he didn't pay heed," said Jhala.
On seeing the family's anguish, Jadhav explained to them that a driver cannot cancel a trip midway. “Jadhav told us to call Ola and report Raut. We took the suggestion and complained to Ola,” said Jhala.
Mahavir Jhala flanked by son Kripal and wife Preeti at his Ghatkopar residence. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
That's when matters took an ugly turn. Raut finally agreed to meet the Jhalas on their way to Ambegaon, but as soon as he pulled over, he allegedly began abusing the family for reporting him to the taxi aggregator. He then refused to return the bag. During an ensuing argument between the family and Raut, the driver allegedly pushed Jhala to the ground. Jhala hit his head and fell unconscious. His wife, Preeti, begged Raut to hand over the luggage and back off, but the driver bore down on them. Jadhav then intervened and snatched the bag from Raut. In the meantime, Raut noticed that Jhala was lying unconscious and fled from the spot.
Jadhav rushed Jhala to Navale Hospital, Pune, from where he was shifted to Bharti Hospital and then to Sancheti Hospital around 4.30 pm. Doctors at Sancheti diagnosed him with an epidural and subdural haematoma (blood clotting in the brain) and performed a four-hour-long surgery. An unconscious Jhala had to get 54 stitches to the head and was kept on ventilator support for over 24 hours.
He finally regained consciousness on February 20 and was discharged five days later.
The family decided against filing a police complaint to avoid the “inconvenience” of travelling to Pune frequently for the probe, said Preeti.
Rogue driver Kailas Raut's cab. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
No longer with Ola
After returning to Mumbai, Jhala's daughter Dimple wrote to Ola on March 8. “A representative called me to say the driver had been removed from Ola's service," she said.
An Ola spokesperson confirmed that Raut is no longer affiliated with the ride hailing service. Ola's action is little consolation for Jhala. Nearly a month after the attack, his speech is still slurred and he often suffers from dizziness.