December 14, 2014 | 10:17pm
Last year, British supermarkets had to limit parents’ baby-formula purchases — because Chinese visitors were buying up all the Western product to take home. The Chinese tourists trusted global brands and not China’s own products because tainted food had killed infants.
But an Uber driver’s reported rape of a passenger in India last week shows that global brands can only go so far in protecting people from the failures of their own governments.
Uber, the ride-share app, has had plenty of bad press lately. One top exec got caught musing that the company should research journalists’ private lives. Then another exec boasted of tracking a reporter’s Uber rides.
Worst, though, was the horror story that made global headlines: the report, a week ago, that an Uber driver in Delhi had abducted and raped a young executive at alarge global firm who’d ordered a car after a night out.
Delhi, a city of 10 million, reacted by banning Uber outright, at least temporarily. India’s government suggested other cities do the same.
The news also produced an explosion of public anger — at the city government, not Uber.
The tag “Delhi Shamed Again” trended on Twitter. “[Why] not ban the police [and] govt” for “failing”? asked one Delhi woman. “If fake [taxi] licenses [and] certificates” abound, “what can Uber do?” asked another Indian observer.
“Banning is not the solution,” says D. Dhanuraj, head of the Centre for Public Policy Research, a think tank based in Kerala, a different Indian state. What Delhi needs, he counsels, is better regulation of all its taxi services.
The sad tale points up a truth: Businesses need predictable regulations — and women need safe public spaces.
In Delhi, taxi services are notoriously bad, with fraudsters easily circumventing weak licensing standards. Plus, India’s criminal records — which background checks rely on — are themselves unreliable.
India’s justice system is weak on sexual assault, anyway. The alleged-rapist driver likely should have been in jail already for similar, previous crimes. Delhi’s police now call him a “psychotic criminal” who likely committed unreported rapes before. Another passenger — a US-based woman — said she had a creepy experience with him last month.
In fact, lack of trust in government’s ability to keep people safe likely drives customers to Uber.
Getting into a car with a stranger is one of the most dangerous things a woman can do. If you’re a vulnerable woman in Delhi, or a global traveler in any foreign city, it makes sense to go with a brand you trust.
But now women with the money and power to travel alone are finding that this strategy doesn’t work, either.
So city officials have had to scramble to assuage public uproar. “We will work out [a] system to ensure that no person with criminal [records] gets a license,” the Delhi police chief told a local TV station. “I assure the women of Delhi, we are doing everything we can to make Delhi safe for you.”
City officials may be figuring something out: Your city isn’t working if half the population can’t safely take advantage of a critical piece of urban infrastructure — a for-hire car.
In New York, Uber competes on service only. It still has to conform to the city’s cabby-licensing standards. Drivers must pass drug tests and submit fingerprints so authorities can see if they’ve been convicted of violent crimes.
This system isn’t perfect. A yellow-cab driver raped a woman in 2011 — and New York has had incidents, over the years, of livery-car drivers molesting drunk passengers. But New York women can be reasonably confident that their driver meets some minimum standard.
Uber’s own failing in Delhi was in implicitly holding out a promise to women that it couldn’t keep: that it could keep women safe, even when their government is falling down on the job.
Part of Uber’s business plan is to police bad drivers partly through a system of private data. When enough customers complain about a driver, that driver will be off the road.
But we don’t try to figure out which airline pilots are safe by waiting to see which ones crash.
Even the best tech company can’t do everything. It’s the core mission of government to protect people from violent crime (and poisonous food) — no matter what brand they’re using.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.
* This piece is an actual reproduction of the newspost by NewYork Post. The copyright shall vest in NYP. Please visit http://nypost.com/2014/12/14/taxi-rape-blame-governments-not-uber/ to read the original version