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Uber tightens driver screening in India, to check criminal records
[NEW DELHI] The US taxi company Uber Technologies Inc has tightened background screening of its drivers in India to include inspection of criminal court records, Uber said in a statement on Monday.
Uber was banned from operating in New Delhi after allegations of rape against one of its drivers. Police said the San Francisco-based company had failed to run proper checks on the driver, who was held three years ago on suspicion of rape but later acquitted.
Uber's services have been banned since then, but the company restarted operations last month after applying for a radio taxi licence.
Uber has joined with First Advantage, a global background screening company, to run additional checks that will include scanning past criminal court records and a national criminal database search.
"Our arrangement with First Advantage brings in additional layers of screening over and above the standard transport licensing process," Uber said in the statement.
In India, Uber had asked its drivers for several government identification documents and a police verification certificate before enrolling them. In the United States, by contrast, Uber conducts a three-step screening on drivers where courthouse records are checked for the past seven years.
An online petition at change.org asking Uber to "stop the double standards" and mandate a similar background check for drivers in India was signed by more than 63,000 people.
The rape allegations by the woman triggered protests and re-ignited a debate about the safety of women in India, especially in New Delhi, which has been called India's rape capital.
Last week, the woman passenger sued Uber in US federal court, calling the company the "modern day equivalent of electronic hitchhiking".
Uber customers use a smartphone application to call for taxis, which are driven by independent operators. It has come under regulatory scrutiny in a number of countries.
India is Uber's largest market outside the United States by the number of cities covered. The country's radio taxi market is estimated to be worth US$6 billion to US$9 billion.