A 23-year-old Belgian national on a pan-India tour was allegedly molested by an Ola cab driver in south east Delhi’s C R Park area last night, in yet another incident that raised questions about the safety of women using app-based taxi hailing services.
The accused driver, Balraj Singh alias Raj, a native of Rajasthan’s Alwar district, was arrested in the wee hours today hours after the incident, police said.
Curiously, when the woman booked the cab, she received a confirmation from Ola that the driver named Vikram Singh would pick her up but it later emerged that he had rented out the vehicle he owned to the accused in violation of the norms.
The woman, who said she worked as a translator, told police that she had booked the cab from Gurgaon and during the journey the cab driver allegedly kissed and took pictures of her.
In a statement, Ola said that the “driver” has been sacked. But the company did not immediately respond to questions as to how the registered owner had rented out the car to another person.
“We first tracked down Vikram but he did not turn out to be the driver. He owned the car. The accused was arrested after Ola assisted police in tracking the GPS locations of the car,” a senior police official said.
Taking a serious view of the incident, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has sought a report from Lt Governor Najeeb Jung on the issue.
“I have asked Lt Governor Delhi for a report on the molestation of a Belgian girl by a Cab driver. We are committed to the safety and security of all foreign nationals in India,” Swaraj said in a series of tweets.
The incident also drew criticism from the opposition parties with former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit claiming that there has been a spike in crimes against women in the national capital under AAP government led by Arvind Kejriwal
A case of molestation has been registered under sections IPC 354 and 354A, 354C against the accused, police said. The taxi is registered with Keshav Taxi Services in Gurgaon’s Sushant Lok area.
The woman, who has been staying in India since February , was travelling to a friend’s place in CR Park whom she had met during her trip to Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh. The victim’s statement has been recorded and she will return to Belgium tonight, police said.
“The driver deliberately took the wrong route after Hauz Khas and when the woman told him that she will ask her friend (about the right route), he took her phone and deleted all the records related to Ola. He also called her over to the front seat claiming that his GPS was not working and then allegedly kissed her,” a senior police official said.
After stepping out of the cab near C R Park area, she informed the police about the incident at around 10 PM, police said.
“Ola confirms that the vehicle as well as the associated operator and driver have been permanently blacklisted from the platform. We will share all required information with the authorities to help resolve this for the customer. We have zero tolerance to such behaviour from drivers on the platform,” the company said in a statement.
Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta also demanded a through investigation into the case. The AAP government has “gone back” on its promise to ramp up women’s safety, he alleged.
“Be it molestation or rape, Delhi has seen an increase in such crimes and they have risen all the more under the Kejriwal dispensation. I want him and his ministers to focus on women’s security. Where else will women feel safe if not the national capital?” Dikshit asked.
Dikshit said Kejriwal had repeatedly raised similar issues during her tenure to criticise her. “We are waiting for him to take some steps in this regard.”