India's cops hunt for Uber cabby turned 'rapist'
AN UBER taxi driver allegedly raped a 25-year-old passenger in the Indian capital before threatening to kill her, police said yesterday, in a blow to the company's safety-conscious image.
New Delhi special commissioner Deepak Mishra said the police were hunting for the driver, who abandoned the taxi and fled after attacking the woman on Friday night in a secluded part of the city.
"We have registered a case of rape and have already recovered the abandoned car," Mr Mishra told AFP.
"The driver, who has been identified, is being traced by the police teams on the ground and we are optimistic that he will be arrested soon."
Mr Mishra also criticised Uber over the attack, saying that early investigations showed global positioning system (GPS) had not been installed in the taxi and mandatory police background checks were not conducted on the driver.
"Our initial investigations have revealed the shortcomings of the private cab company, which didn't have GPS installed in its cabs and the staff wasn't verified," he said.
United States-based Uber, which emphasises safety and high-end technology, is making inroads in the Indian market. Women in India, and Delhi in particular, are extremely safety-conscious after dark, following a string of gang rapes that sparked global shock.
The incident comes just days before the second anniversary of the fatal gang rape of a student in Delhi, which unleashed outrage about attacks on women in India and inadequate efforts to keep them safe.
In the latest incident, the female executive of a finance company had dozed off in the taxi as she was returning home from dinner with friends, the local media reported.
The woman told the police that she woke up 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.
Although the driver threatened to kill her if she reported the crime to the police, the woman snapped a photo of the car's licence plate before alerting the authorities, an officer told the Press Trust of India news agency.
Uber said it was working with the police to solve the "terrible crime", while stressing that safety was "Uber's highest priority". It has also suspended the driver's account.
The rape allegation threatens to hurt Uber's business in India, just months after it got into trouble with the nation's central bank over its payment gateway. The Reserve Bank of India closed a loophole that had let the company provide a simpler payment system compared to local rivals.
The maker of the ride-hailing application now operates in 11 cities in the country, making India its biggest market after the US.
It started a service on Nov 20 using very small cars under the brand UberGO, which was promoted as an alternative to India's non-air-conditioned taxis.