As Ola is being pulled up for multiple instances of sexual assault by their driver partners, over a hundred of its former drivers, who have been blacklisted by the cab aggregator, staged a protest outside their office in Bengaluru on Monday. The drivers vented their ire over the company's refusal to change their policy of terminating the services of drivers based on negative feedback from customers of the service.
"The drivers have been blacklisted for trivial reasons and the company has made a policy which has rendered cars of blacklisted drivers useless. Even if their owners change the drivers, the cars remain blacklisted and this affects the car's resale value as well," explained Tanveer Pasha, who heads the Ola And Uber Taxi Drivers’ Association.
An Ola spokesperson, in response, confirmed that the company had begun to crackdown on its 'driver partners' over the last two months, over concerns of safety.
"We have a zero-tolerance policy and we terminate drivers after an investigation into complaints is done. We investigate complaints independently and drivers are terminated based on the nature of the complaint especially when they are charged by authorities" confirmed the spokesperson.
"Driver partners are only blacklisted when there is a complaint against them. The complete investigation is done before any such action takes place. Blacklisting of drivers is to ensure customer safety, especially that of women," added the official.
However, drivers claim that they have been terminated for reasons like misunderstanding location and for “rude behaviour” towards customers.
The protest by cab drivers on Monday was staged even as news emerged that an Ola driver Devasomalia was accused of sexually harassing a woman on her journey from Yelahanka to JP Nagar on August 23. The driver allegedly masturbated while watching porn during the journey and is yet to be apprehended. The accusation is among a series of cases charged against drivers of the cab aggregator in the last two months.
On July 4, a 30-year-old woman headed for the airport was allegedly attacked and abducted by the driver of an Ola cab and was rescued after she alerted officials and motorists at a toll plaza.
Earlier on June 1, a Bengaluru-based architect was allegedly held hostage, forced to disrobe and was threatened with rape by an Ola cab driver, during their journey from Kodihalli to the Bengaluru International Airport.
The company began its crackdown on drivers following the June 1 incident.
"Now, a call goes to customers whenever a cab is rerouted from 6 pm to 6 am in Bengaluru. We have also ensured criminal checks and introduced selfie authentication in Bengaluru. We have also started gender sensitisation programmes for one million driver partners,"added the official.
Cab drivers however, claim that they are being unfairly targetted by the company's drive to implement strict regulations
They are also approaching the Transport Commissioner asking Ola also to be involved in criminal cases.
While the drivers agree that that drivers and operators accused should be charged by the police, they believe that the company should also be held legally compliant.
"When a person books a cab, they book it trusting the company (Ola) and not a driver. We feel that the company should hold greater responsibility of the incidents occurring," Tanveer added