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Ola had Promised to Avoid 'Unsafe' Route to B’luru Airport In June

Since August, two incidents have come to light where women allegedly fell prey to lack of safety protocol.

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Following an incident on 30 September, where a woman claimed that she was forced to disembark on the deserted BK Halli-Bagalur road at 3:30 am by her Ola cab driver, it has emerged that Ola had in fact, provided an undertaking to the city police back in June to ensure that their 'driver partners' don’t use the alternative route from the Kempegowda International Airport.

Sources close to the company have said that all initiatives to ensure passenger safety on the isolated Bagalur road, an alternative route to the airport taken by many cab drivers so as to avoid paying toll on NH-44, were in place, including stationing security guards, flagging Ola vehicles travelling on the road and redirecting them to the highway etc.

However, speaking to The Quint, DCP (northeast) Bheemashankar S Guled said, “Ola has not complied with the undertaking they themselves proposed. We are planning some stricter action against them (cab companies) this time, we might write to Transport Department as they are not following directives.” He also said that the road was manned by Hoysalas (patrol vehicles) and police bikes during the night.

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Following their advisory in February, city police have again on Friday issued a directive for cab drivers to not use alternate routes to the airport between 7 pm-7 am. If the advisory is violated, there may be termination of licence.

In August, the body of a Kolkata native was found near the airport compound. She was allegedly murdered on the deserted road by a cabbie who intended to rob her. More recently, a 32-year-old employee of a private technology company has filed an FIR with the airport police, in which she has said that she was forced to disembark by a misbehaving cab driver who refused to drive on NH-44.

Despite such incidents, the road remains open to motorists and has no streetlights and no police presence.

What was Ola’s Undertaking to Ensure Safety?

According to the document accessed by The Quint, Ola Cabs had proposed to implement the following measures, among others, to ensure the safety of women passengers travelling to and from the airport.

  • Flyers/pamphlets distributed to riders, while exiting the Ola pick-up zone, on how to use the Emergency feature on the app

  • ‘Ola Guardian’, a ride-monitoring system that tracks sudden stops and route deviations

  • Mapping of dark spots and unsafe routes on the monitoring system

  • Deployment of security personnel along airport routes from 9pm to 6am to avoid mishaps

  • Suspension/action against cabbies diverting from route or flouting safety norms

Sources close to the company claimed that the above measures were in place as per protocol but The Quint has been unable to independently verify the same.

"They have not implemented most of them (undertaking), there is no security on the road. Even ten days ago, this issue was flagged. These people are earning money, whenever something happens, they blame the driver. If you are earning money from a service, it is your responsibility to ensure safety. If you’re not following your own undertaking, you are to blame."
Bheemashankar S Guled, DCP (Northeast)

Driver Partners Have Strict Instructions to Only Use Toll-Road: Ola Cabs

In light of the recent incident, a company spokesperson said:

"Safety of customers is a top priority for us and we have taken several proactive measures in this regard such as multiple levels of driver verification, 24/7 helpline, in-app emergency button to name a few. We are closely working with the authorities to further integrate solutions that will help create a safe and reliable mobility experience in our cities."

He further added, "As per the advisory issued by the authorities, we have issued strict instructions to all driver-partners to access the city only through the toll-road; any deviations will lead to immediate termination from the platform.”

Not True That She Didnt Get Help: Sources Close to Ola

Sources close to the company however said that contrary to what the complainant has stated, it was not true that Ola had not done enough to help her.

They said that communication had been established with the vehicle even before the emergency button had been pressed and that they had been trying to reach the complainant, but in vain. They allegedly even sent her an email at 3:47 am, asking her to provide an alternate number.

Sources claimed that Ola customer care ensured that she was safe once she got into another cab to go home with her friend and said that “she chose to make her own arrangements”.

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Twisting the Truth, There has Been no Action or Empathy: Complainant

Speaking to The Quint, the complainant said that she is now afraid to take cabs at night, and wishes nobody else finds themselves in the same situation.

“As soon as he took the turn, my first thought was of the Kolkata model who was murdered. I told him to take the highway and he said there is no highway, that he is following the map and kept on driving. I work for an IT firm, if the ride is being tracked, you should have known within 2 seconds when he deviates and should have reached out to him,” she said. Soon after, she pressed the emergency button and asked him to take her to the airport, but he asked her to get out of the cab instead.

“I told him to call his supervisor and suddenly heard him telling someone on call that I was drunk. I was shocked and fearing for my safety, grabbed the phone from him and asked who it was. Meanwhile, my friend who was also travelling from the airport reached where I was and I sat in the cab with him. Sitting there, I called Ola Support as the trip was still on and I was afraid that he would find out where I lived. Without resolving anything, the agent hung up on me. Soon, I got an email saying that the ticket has been closed,” she said.

Since August, two incidents have come to light where  women allegedly fell prey to lack of safety protocol.

Once she lodged a complaint with cops later that day, she received a call from the security head of the company who profusely apologised. But she claims that there has been no response, clarification or resolution after that.

“I pay taxes here, I need to feel safe at 2-3 am, especially near the airport. Nobody should take that route after 6 pm, if its open, there should be streetlight and police patrolling. I would have appreciated if Ola contacted me, expressed empathy and shared corrective action,” she said.

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