Why Uber cannot be exonerated?
Lot has been written about the Uber incident that happened two weeks back in Delhi. Most of them were understandably outbursts calling for banning Uber. I condemn the incident strongly and my empathy lies with the victim and her family for what happened. Banning Uber is not the solution for this, for that as a society we need to look deeper.
In this background, I happened to read this article “In defense of Uber in India” by my friend Sriram Krishnan (who works in Silicon Valley) which has looked into this from a different perspective. In response to that article is my below response.
Sriram, yours was a refreshing piece to tell the Uber side of the story. But I feel it misses the forest for the trees. I sympathise with Uber that they have been made a scapegoat for a systematic failure in India for Women safety, especially in New Delhi. But that doesn’t exonerate Uber from their failure.
Uber is not doing this as a “free” service. They are charging me (the user) $$$ to deliver me a ride and that ride has to be safe. That’s part of the social and legal contract when I start using their app and get into their cabs. Period.
If verification systems in India are not functional (which I agree are far from perfect) then Uber had to invent its own. Many international firms are doing that across industries for various functions. If we give the benefit of the doubt in this to Uber, then McDonald’s (or Saravana Bhavan) can serve poisoned meat and say India’s food control is patchy, so we are helpless. Similarly, Facebook can do nothing for child pornography and say India’s law on that is weak or non-existent.
The advantage of globalisation is the cross-pollination of good ideas and best practices. As an Indian user when I use an American (or Global) service/product I expect I am getting the best from the world. Not the same stuff I can get in my street corner. I don’t need an Uber to give me a ride in an old dirty autorickshaw ride with Uber sticker on the side.
In this incident, Indian society and my elected Government(s) have failed to ensure safety for that poor woman. It is no secret that women safety in India is poor. A 10-minute analysis on social media would have told Uber that. This is what India is today. Before launching the service, Uber should have taken notice of this, planned their checks in place and then rolled out their service. I have not read in media, that they did anything beyond routine “eye-wash” actions and that’s why I feel they are guilty.