This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Pallavi Ghosh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Safe Rides In The City: Cab Service Providers Speak Up

More from Pallavi Ghosh

By Pallavi Ghosh

In a week’s time I have a flight to board from the IGI airport in New Delhi, but it is not the flight that is bothering me. It is the half hour cab drive that I have to book to reach the airport.

At the beginning of June, another sexual assault allegation against a driver working for the Uber cabs, had rekindled concerns over women’s security within the city’s environs. This makes me re-visit a much debated question – Are women in Delhi feeling safe travelling within the city?

Rituparna Patgiri, who is an M.Phil student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, shares, “I had gone to the airport alone at 3 am once. But after recent happenings, I became a little conscious…a little fear crept inside me. So I spent 1000 bucks more to book a flight ticket at a more convenient time. It is the fear of getting raped in the streets at 3 or 2 am in the night when nobody is out there in the streets.

Hands of a taxi driver, Calcutta Kolkata India
Uber, a California-based company which has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, has revamped its security measure after a 27-year-old woman was raped by a cab driver while she was headed home from a party in Gurgaon. It shared that new in-app features like SOS button and Send Status were amongst the measures taken post December to ensure better safety of its customers. Apart from these two features that are instrumental in connecting to friends, family and officials including police and Uber support team during crisis moments, the Send Status feature enables tracking a ride by friends and family.

They also have support teams on-ground who are approachable via email on Twitter and Facebook 24/7. However, the absence of a direct helpline number is likely to make the route to seeking help during crises a little more time consuming.

Moreover, despite these specific measures, it remains doubtful as to how aware the customers are about these technological developments. Even the 21-year-old victim of molestation was unaware of the in-built SOS app.
The government had rejected the fresh license applications of Ola, Uber and Taxi For Sure on June 3, 2015.Operations of these three aggregators had been banned post December, however, the companies did not comply with the order and continued functioning.

According to Transport Minister Gopal Rai, Uber and Ola cabs were asked on May 28 to furnish details including number of vehicles and addresses of their drivers to ensure regularisation of their services. But the two operators did not comply with it.

However Gagan Bhatia, General Manager of Uber in Delhi, shares in an e-mail with YKA, “The request for additional data was verbal and not a part of the licensing process. No specifics on the content or format of such information were provided to us. Even as of today, there remains no formal communication.

Luckily for Ola, a Delhi High Court order came as a relief to the company and operations stood permitted under a legal reprieve. APRA Cabs India Private Limited(APRA) and Serendipity Info Labs Pvt. Ltd. (Serendipity) had filed a petition in January arguing that it had been banned without being given an opportunity of being heard by the banning authority-GNTCD. The order also revokes the ban imposed on Ola and Taxi For Sure and has also granted them the permission to apply for license to the GNTCD. The authority has been asked to analyse, ask for response in case of non-compliance of any requirement and then respond to the applications within a period that does not extend a month.

Post the December rape allegation against an Uber driver, the company had applied for a complete radio taxi license in January, when it had also shared all the driver details that are required as per the application process, says Gagan. Uber has turned in details regarding its driver partners and vehicles in Delhi to the government and is currently seeking towards an amicable solution in favour of the citizens’ interests.

Uber is still silent about starting up a helpline number for its customers. However, when asked about expansion plans, Gagan said, “India is an important market and we’ll continue to invest in the Indian market. We aren’t able to share specific details on what is in the pipeline but we have a number of exciting things our teams are working on. For now, our focus is growing our business in the cities we are currently available in and ensuring our rapidly growing rider base in these cities is served to the highest quality.” Given the clouds of scepticism hovering around its current functioning, it is difficult to say as to how the expansion plans will take shape.

Is The Model Flawed?

Meru is another popular cab service in the city that follows a different model than Ola and Uber. Unlike the latter which are only aggregators, Meru has a hybrid model and have a mix of owned cars and aggregator cars. Meru follows a policy of training their chauffeurs at the Meru Training Academy in subjects like road safety, consumer etiquettes, and technology.

Amidst raised concerns over growing insecurity of women travelling within the city, Meru has shared plans of integrating Aadhar Card database with their driver verification program to improve passenger safety in cabs. The company is also mulling the option of online driver identification inside the cab every few hours before a booking is assigned through an Aadhar biometric scan. This, the company feels, will be a foolproof way to ensure that only the authorized person is driving the cab.

Meru cabs, for their part, have a 24/7 call centre number along with tracking – Trip Tracker – and emergency connect – ICE alert – as part of their safety ensuring mechanism.

However, Meru Eve, which is targeted to cater to women and is run by women, has many additional safety amenities like the ‘Himmat’ app and ‘Video Recording’ facility app installed in mobile phones, Panic Buzzer, Pepper Spray, Women Helpline Numbers and Speed Dial for all SHO’s for Distress Call Number.

There are over 100 cabs operational under Meru Eve and the company is planning to scale operations up to 250-300 cabs. Like chauffeurs at Meru, lady drivers at Meru Eve are also well trained in safe driving, technology and consumer etiquettes along with self-defence techniques.

Mr. Siddhartha Pahwa, CEO, Meru shares in an e-mail conversation with YKA, “With improved levels of presence of women in the public place and their significant contribution the country’s workforce, women’s safety is the need of the hour. They need a public transport system that is by them, of them and for them, true to the tenets of a good democracy. This is where Meru Eve comes in, by playing its part in ensuring women’s safety on Delhi roads, thereby empowering both the women drivers and the passengers.

However, how much faith and trust customers have in cab services remains debatable. For Maitrayee Patar, who is all set to begin her M. Phil at TISS, the dilemma is very real. She shares of a time in Delhi when she preferred to spend a night at the airport rather than booking a cab in the wee hours. She says, “I have been told that a few cab services are really good and safe, but when it comes to 2:30 am in the morning, I found out that I could not trust any cab service. My instincts said that it’s better to on the safer side rather than to lament later. And I am not very proud of the thought.

Sakha, on the other hand, has a different model. Unlike Meru, which a radio taxi service-cum-aggregator, Sakha is a cab service provider with three kind of services – chauffeur on call, cab service with a minimum booking for 4 hours and drivers supply service for women and children. Sakha is a completely women-driven project initiated by the Azad foundation and has about 90 women trained and another 100 in training chauffeurs.

Currently, the minimum booking of 4 hours and the lowest price available is Rs.600 for a budget cab for a distance of 40+10kms. When asked in a telephonic interview if this provision is likely to limit the access to affordable and safe cab service to many women, Deepali Baradwaj- CEO of Sakha- said that the current model has been successful and has a retention capacity of 90 percent in terms if their customer base. Consequently, with on demand from the customers’ side and a relatively stable business model, the company does not feel compelled to work on radio taxi model. Baradwaj also shared that there are plans of extending cab services in Rajasthan this year; and Kolkata and Indore by the next year.

However, one must ask if a woman-for-woman model is ideal to work towards the struggle towards gender equality? Or does it re-enforce gender binaries by fixing men as perpetrators and women as victim of patriarchal practices? For Baradwaj, it is not about isolating men, but about creating safety solutions and livelihood opportunities for women by increasing their presence on roads. But is this presence to be taken as an intrusion or right? The answer remains debatable.

The Other Side Of Cabs: Cabs As Solutions For Safe Travelling Within The City

One must also keep in mind that the very existence of cab service is to ensure safe travelling within the city environs. Consequently, banning service providers is not the best solution especially in cities with a vibrant night life and night shifts at work. Mumbai, for example, is well-known for its exuberant night life. It is often called as the city that never sleeps.

Neha Shefali, who is a copywriter at McCann and has been living in Mumbai for more than two years now, shares, “I feel quite safe even at night here. I work mostly during morning shifts, but sometimes I am called in at night as well. In a situation when I cannot avail the office cab service, I opt for regular cabs. I live 23 km away from my office and the cab drivers are usually safe to travel with.” She adds that given that the auto rickshaw drivers often refuse customers, relying on cabs has so far been a better option for her especially during odd hours.

However, Shefali agrees that the city also has its own bag of unsettling stories especially with regard to safety of women. She shares a personal experience when two years ago she was a student at St.Xavier’s college in Mumbai and had booked a cab at night. She states, “It was around 9:30 pm and we (Shefali and her friend) were in the cab when I thought we crossed a stadium where a cricket match was going on. I asked the driver twice if he was aware of any match that was scheduled that night. He remained silent. A few minutes later we got to know that he was masturbating. We were shocked. We stopped the cab; de-boarded it; threw money at the driver and went walking to our place.

She states further, “In the two years I have spent here, that was the only disturbing experience I have had in the city with a cab driver. Therefore, despite the experience I feel quite safe booking a cab ride at night in the city.

Lastly, we must not forget that road safety has many facets and is definitely not just endangered by unreliable drivers. For many women, who go out to socialise or work purposes, the cab provides a safe way to get back home specially when one is drunk, has been working late or is sleep deprived for any reason. Driving oneself back is definitely not a safe option in such cases. Consequently, the need of the hour is to develop ways to make cabs services safer rather than shutting them down.

You must be to comment.
  1. Jigsaw

    Cab driver falsely accused of rape saved by his phone app

    Mum-of-two jailed after falsely accusing taxi driver of rape

    Police Refuse to Charge Women Who Allegedly Falsely Accused Taxi Driver of Sexual Assault

    Taxi Cab Driver Falsely Accused of Sexual Assault As Ploy to Avert $13 Cab Fare

    Court rules taxi driver falsely accused of rape can receive compensation in legal first

    Woman who got innocent taxi driver arrested on false rape claim gets 20 months behind bars

    Woman accused of fabricating story of taxi driver extortion

    These incidents are everyday news, but no one will bother to cover them because men are not human beings.


    We provides world class chandigarh taxi service from tricity of chandigarh, mohali and panchkula for local and
    outstation trips.

  3. Vijay Karla

    I believe it’s a good practice to share your GPS location with your family members or friends whenever you are travelling in India.
    There is an opensource app and service available for this which they provide free of cost considering the safety and security of travelers in India.
    You can register here to avail the service without any additional cost.
    Read this blog to know how exactly to use this service:

More from Pallavi Ghosh

Similar Posts

By Rohit Malik

By Akshat Vats

By Tirthankar Das

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below