“I took up this job two years ago because I thought this would be a decent one. I felt since we were working affiliated to a company, there would be professionalism in passengers’ approach towards us. This incident compels me to feel otherwise. It is not the money that I lost to the hospital, but the shame I was subjected to that irks me,” says Shafeeq, the Uber taxi driver who was brutally beaten up by three women in Kochi on Wednesday morning.
Shafeeq is one among the many online taxi drivers who feel insecure owing to the work pressure and the meagre amount of money they collect at the end of the day. “It is the first time in my life I faced such a drastic situation. I am married and staying with my family which includes my wife, kid and parents. How can I face my family members having been beaten in the public by strangers for no reason. My mother fainted when she saw the video of the women beating me. How can a mother witness such a scene? I don’t think that I will be able to join work soon. My doctor asked me to take enough rest and then start work,” he said.
Shafeeq, along with the leaders of Kerala State Motor Workers’ Union held a press meet on Monday at the Ernakulam Press Club. The Union has filed a complaint with the Home Minister, Transport Minister, DGP, Transport Commissioner and Kochi City Police Commissioner, demanding to book the three women, who manhandled Shafeeq, for attempt of murder. It has also sought compensation for Shafeeq who faced the embarrassing situation, safety for all online taxi workers and more Government control on the exploitative foreign online taxi companies.
Union Joint Secretary Shajo Jose said that the right of a citizen should be same for men and women. “When Shafeeq was beaten, no one made actual effort to curb the situation as our laws are pro-woman. This is a sheer case of one citizen attacking another without any provocation. This should be treated like that. The women should not have been granted bail,” he said.
The three women, Angel Baby, Clara Sibin and M. Sheeja were arrested by Maradu Police soon after the incident and the police had initially said that they would not be given bail.
The incident took place around 11:30 am on Wednesday at Vyttila Junction. The women had opted for Uberpool (cab sharing) and when Shafeeq reached at their point, there was another man called Shinoj in the taxi. Shinoj had booked the taxi earlier. The women did not want Shinoj to travel along with them and they asked him to leave the cab. When Shinoj said that he would change to the front seat so that the women could sit in the back seat, they refused and shut the car’s door heavily with anger.
This annoyed Shafeeq and when he questioned the action by the women, they misbehaved with him. “They bit on my hand and struck my head with stone. They stripped me on the road and even damaged my undergarment. It is horrible even to think of it,” he said.
The union leaders who held the press meet on Monday also pointed out that the women should be given maximum punishment for ensuring safety of the general public, especially the women. Women are being harassed each and every moment and in this circumstance, these criminal women should be punished in the best way possible. Then only we can ensure safety for all other women, a press release said.
“Earlier we used to earn more than what we earn these days. The number of Uber taxis is increasing day by day. We have to work at least 18 hours a day to meet our requirements. There is this heavy pressure for us and in the middle of this, we cannot face such atrocities. I expect strong support from the police, the Government as well as the public,” Shafeeq said.
Meanwhile, online taxi drivers went on a strike in the city on Monday. However, some of them rendered their services to the public as the strike was an overnight decision.