Uber says it is resuming operations in New Delhi a month after it was banned following the alleged rape of a passenger by one of its drivers. The mobile car-hailing service has applied for a taxi license in the city — an unprecedented move as it usually claims to only be a technology company "connecting riders to drivers," rather than a full-blown taxi firm. However, in a statement regarding the move Uber said: "While we have applied for a license under the amended Radio Taxi scheme, we still remain a technology company."
Uber's fine print states it is "not a transportation carrier."
This distinction has been at the heart of numerous protests against Uber, with traditional taxi firms arguing that it allows the San Francisco-based company to avoid costly regulatory hurdles such as vehicle and background checks. The company itself states in a section at the bottom of its websites labeled "The Fine Print" that it is "not a transportation carrier," and admitted after the alleged rape in New Delhi that it did not perform background checks in India (in the US it carries out seven-year background checks).
It was this lack of security that led India's home ministry to advise that the country's states ban all web-based taxi firms until they apply for licenses. To operate as a taxi firm in India, companies must have a fleet of 200 cars, a 24-hour call center, and a panic button for passengers in their vehicles. India's Economic Times reports that Uber's decision to apply for a taxi license in the country is a world first, although Uber says that it has previously allowed radio taxis to operate on its platform — for example in Hong Kong and Singapore.
"As we resume operations in Delhi, we are only allowing driver-partners who have undergone re-verification of their Police clearance in the last six weeks to get back on the platform," said Uber in a press release on Friday. "For an additional layer of screening, we are implementing independent background checks on all driver partners, plus vehicle documentation reviews." The Wall Street Journal reports that Uber will not be able to operate fully in the city until its application for a license has been approved.
Update, January 24th, 8:40AM ET: This story was updated to include additional comment from Uber.