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Amidst Delhi uproar, officials of Uber, Ola and TaxiForSure go into silent mode

As a fallout of the rape in an Uber cab that rocked the national capital over the weekend, the Delhi transport authorities late on Monday banned all taxi service providers who use web based technology and do not have the requisite permits from the authorities. This comes after the government had earlier in the day prohibited US based taxi booking company Uber from operating in Delhi after one of its drivers allegedly raped a 27-year-old woman Friday night. 

The move affects several home-grown taxi service providers including Ola Cabs and TaxiforSure. Neither of these companies were available for comment despite multiple attempts. Phones of both the founders of Ola Cabs as well as TaxiForSure were switched off. Several other officials including media relations officials of these companies have been unreachable since Tuesday morning. 

Ola Cabs is led by CEO Bhavish Aggarwal and TaxiForSure by Raghunandan G.

In the case of Uber, all officials based in India – with the exception of its Singapore based spokesperson Evelyn Tay – have gone into silent mode since the incident. On being asked for comment on Uber being banned in Delhi, Tay said in a late night email on Monday, “We will keep the media posted when we have updates.”

In an interview to Economic Times, however, Eric Alexander, President of Business for Uber in Asia, said the company would compensate the victim and would work to comply with the law of the land even as it appeals the ban, 

For now, the Delhi Transport Authority has only allowed six taxi companies – Easy Cab, Mega Cab, Meru Cab, Chanson Cab, Yo Cab and Air Cab – to operate as they are licensed with the Transport Department for ‘Radio Taxis’ in the National Capital Region. 

After Friday’s incident, the police authorities allege that Uber did not conduct adequate background checks on the driver, who had previously been acquitted for raping a victim inside his taxi in Delhi after spending seven months in judicial custody in 2011. The driver has been remanded to three days in police custody for interrogation by a Delhi Court. 

“Uber’s services were also in contravention of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, and rules framed under it,” said the government in a statement. According to them, an All India Tourist Permit holder was provided by Uber on the request of the commuter through the Uber Web application for a local journey within Delhi, which is not permitted according to the current law. 

On Sunday, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in a statement, “We will do everything, I repeat, everything to help bring this perpetrator to justice and to support the victim and her family in her recovery.” 

Kalanick also said that “clear background checks” are currently “absent” in India’s commercial transportation licensing programs. However, his comment on India’s unclear background check norms was criticised as passing the blame for the crime on the Indian authorities. 

Business Standard reported on Monday that Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu is likely to speak with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung about the circumstances that led the Delhi Government to ban Uber services. The ministry is also likely to issue revised advisory to such transport operators, including suggesting Aadhaar number as a possible solution to the problem of driver verification.

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