Published: 24th April 2019
Kolkata Shocker: Driver abuses, hits autistic six-year-old, Uber just refunds fare
Uber has not taken any action except for a routine apology call and the refund in 24 hours of the incident
In a horrifying incident in Kolkata, an Uber driver twisted a six-year-old autistic child's arm as the boy started playing with the AC panels while his grandmother who was accompanying him to school was paying the cab fare. He even went on to say that he should be locked up at home and not let out. When the family filed a complaint with Uber they were merely refunded the fare.
The incident happened when the child and his grandmother reached his school in the afternoon in an Uber driven by one Chandeswar Kr. Piyali Gupta, the child's mother, who is an English professor at Kolkata's Bethune College, narrated the entire incident to us expressing her grave concern over her child's well-being, Uber's inability to dismiss the driver from service and how people in the city and the country as a whole, have become extremely violent and intolerant, "My mother accompanies my son to school every day in these app cabs. It's a 45-50 minutes journey. Needless to say, my mother is an elderly person who by sheer willpower manages this journey twice daily. And my son, who is six years old, is a 'special' child, as he has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Yesterday my mother booked an Uber and when it reached his school, my son jumped to the front seat and started playing with the ac panels while she paid for the trip. The driver immediately caught hold of my son's wrist and said, 'Kaaner goraay ek thappor maarbo' (I will slap you hard). My son does not understand the nuances of language and he continued touching the thing. When my mother protested, the driver retorted, "Erom chhele ke niye rastay beroben na, barite bondho kore rekhe ashben" (Do not take 'such' a child outside, you should lock him up at home)."
When Piyali came to know about the incident, she rushed to her son's school and registered a complaint with Uber around 4.15 pm in the evening on April 23. Since then she has received only a single phone call from Uber, apologising for the incident and then the fare was refunded. The traumatised mother exclaimed that she had never been in such a situation earlier and this kind of incident was beyond her imagination. "We have been travelling by Uber and Ola for years now as that is convenient, I have never faced such a thing. The drivers have always told me to control the child, ask him to sit quietly but never beyond that," Piyali said. "This particular driver physically manhandled my child and that's what I have a problem with. Why couldn't he ask my mother to control the child? My son has sensory processing issues. He just loves to play with the ac panels, he just touches them and that comforts him in some way. He is hyperactive even inside cars but we usually make him sit beside us. He has a tendency to jump and go to the front seat just to touch those panels before getting down," explained Piyali.
She has a few questions for Uber that she wants answers to. "I had asked for an apology from the driver and assurance from Uber that he will not be allowed to drive. Was that too much to ask? Can Uber provide a redressal beyond the trip fare refund? How safe are our children and our elderly family members travelling in these app-based cabs?" she asked. "I want to know if a company as big as Uber provides sensitisation programmes for its drivers. If yes, then whether they can share details with the customers? If not, then can they at least tell us what steps Uber India has taken to ensure that such incidents may be minimised in future," she added
Uber, are you listening?
As the mother and the grandmother have been scarred irreparably, Piyali said that her six-year-old has not allowed her to touch his right wrist since the incident and he does not know how to tell her that it hurts. "I want to know if the trip money which was refunded really compensates for this anguish that a six-year-old kid and his elderly grandmother had to face," she asked.
Piyali plans to go to the local police station to file an FIR as Uber hasn't responded to any of her queries about taking actions against the driver in the past 24 hours. "My mother is scarred beyond such a point that I don't know if she can take the child to school anymore. I have been thinking of buying a vehicle for the safety of my child, but what about the ones who have to depend on these app-based services for their daily commute?" added Piyali.