Uber 'warned' about Delhi driver accused of rape

Uber 'warned' about Delhi driver accused of rape
File photo of the office of Uber Singapore at River Valley.

NEW DELHI - An Indian woman has said she warned Uber about the behaviour of one of its drivers 10 days before he allegedly raped a young female passenger in Delhi.

Nidhi Shah said she complained to the web-based taxi service and received assurances it would investigate the driver, who is in police custody on suspicion of rape.

US-based Uber has been banned from operating in Delhi and accused of "cheating" passengers after it emerged it performed no background checks on the driver, who faced a string of earlier charges.

"I took a cab with Shiv Kumar Yadav in Delhi on Nov 26th. Scares me beyond belief," Shah tweeted late Tuesday.

"He was staring at me and smiling - made me feel quite uncomfortable." Shah told the NDTV news channel she felt she should report the driver to the company.

"I had a bad feeling about him," she said.

She also tweeted the response from a customer services operator for Uber, which named the driver and said the complaint had been passed on to the relevant team and would be investigated.

Yadav, 32, was charged with molestation in 2003, with possessing a weapon without a licence in 2006 and with robbery and rape in 2013, said the deputy commissioner for north Delhi police, Madhur Verma.

Officials said a police certificate provided by the driver, which is supposed to detail any criminal convictions or pending charges, was a fake.

India has been struggling to overcome a reputation for sexual violence since the fatal gang-rape of a student in Delhi in December 2012.

That case sparked mass protests and drew international condemnation of the country's treatment of women.

'National shame'

Home Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament on Tuesday that 25,000 rape cases were registered across India in the first 11 months of this year, calling the figure a "national shame".

But activists say many more go unreported in the nation of 1.2 billion because of the stigma of sexual violence and a system that tends to blame the victim.

"These figures mean nothing," Sehba Farooqui of the All India Democratic Women's Association told AFP.

"Cases are barely registered. Even if the woman gathers courage and goes to report a case, police are often reluctant to register her complaint.

"The figures that the government and police cite are a gross misrepresentation of actual numbers." The Uber passenger told police she dozed off and woke to find the taxi parked in a secluded place, where the driver assaulted and raped her before dumping her near her home in north Delhi.

Indian police have registered a case against Uber for "cheating" and summoned its officials for questioning. They say they are looking at whether the company can be held legally liable.

Uber has enjoyed spectacular growth since it was launched in 2009, but has faced bans in several countries over safety concerns and a failure to adhere to the same rules as its traditional counterparts.

Concerns over privacy have also been raised, and the company got a black eye when an executive was quoted as proposing the creation of a team of researchers to investigate critical reporters.

Uber has continued to operate in Delhi despite a ban order from city authorities. The federal government has recommended that other states also prohibit unregistered web-based taxi services.

Meanwhile, India's new tourism minister told AFP the government would compile a database of approved taxi operators for foreign visitors, as authorities seek to limit the damage from the latest allegation.

"Every such incident sets us back by almost five years," Mahesh Sharma said.

Around seven million foreigners visited India in 2013 - just a quarter of the numbers who travelled to Thailand or Malaysia.

Mumbai police spokesman, deputy commissioner Dhananjay Kulkarni, said the force was doing background checks on all cab drivers in the city, including those with private companies.

"We are checking the criminal history," he told AFP, saying that it would take until the end of December.

"It's a Herculean task," he said.

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