Driving isn’t their only job on days like New Years’ Eve or Christmas; facing rowdy passengers and cleaning vomit also figure in a day’s work.
New Delhi: New Year’s Eve is a night of revelry and partying for most, but not all. There are a group of professionals who have to be more responsible, alert, and are little appreciated for the job they have to do.
For Uber and Ola drivers, driving isn’t their only job on days like New Years’ Eve or Christmas. Facing rowdy behaviour, cleaning vomit, and working into the wee hours also figure in a day’s work.
ThePrint talked to some app-based drivers in Delhi to understand what they dread the most on New Year’s Eve.
Though Uber and Ola tell their drivers to be near party-zones in festive seasons to get more customers, some drivers rather not be near them. Hauz Khas Village and Gurugram Sector 29 are often a no-go zone owing to the number of bars, restaurants and the popularity of these areas among young people.
“I usually don’t pick up passengers from Hauz Khas area in Delhi as a woman had once vomited in my car after getting extremely drunk. So I drop at these locations but don’t pick up,” Indrajit, an Uber driver said.
Another Uber driver, Ravinder had a similar story to share. “One night I had picked up a woman who was going from Hauz Khas to Faridabad and she insisted on smoking even though I told her this was a CNG car,” he said.
“Even though I know I will get passengers in these areas, I avoid them, not only on New Year’s Eve but also on weekends,” Ravinder added.
Shiv Kumar has been an autorickshaw driver in Delhi since 1992. “I do not avoid any location. Sharabi milega toh cancel kar denge ( If someone is drunk, I cancel the ride),” he said.
Vomit and rowdy passengers
All of the Uber and Ola drivers ThePrint spoke to had stories to share about drunk and rowdy passengers, but what they dreaded the most were people who vomited in their cars and made a mess.
Ravinder said he keeps plastic bags in his car for both children and inebriated adults. “It is not possible to always park the car on the side and let the customer vomit, so rather than clean up after them, I keep these disposable bags,” he said.
For Harmendra Singh, who has had only one instance of a passenger vomiting in his car said, “I made him clean it up, but I gave him water and cloth.”
In addition to this, taxi drivers have to deal with inebriated passengers who behave rudely with them.
“We get many drunk passengers. Sometimes these passengers treat us like slaves. They don’t consider this as a service; they think that they own us in a way,” said Dinesh Goswami, a driver.
“They’ll eat, drink, litter in the car and not clean it up after which, the next customer will give us a poor rating,” he added.
“Last year, a guy kept drinking in the car. He refused to pay me until he finished the bottle. I had to wait for an hour,” said Mohan Singh, a driver with Uber.
Most of the Ola and Uber drivers in Delhi-NCR are men, which is why many of them said that driving tipsy women home becomes risky.
Arushi Gupta, a media student in Delhi said, “My friends have got into accidents because of drunk driving. So we all rely on cabs mostly”.
Asked if she has to be more careful coming back from a party while inebriated, she said, “Yeah that’s always there. Even the cab drivers that are available in the middle of the night are sometimes drunk themselves.”
Some cab drivers said that with drunk women they fear being complained against.
“I had picked up a woman from Faridabad who was drunk; her friend had to guide me on the phone how to take her to her hostel. Once I reached there, I called the warden to pick her up from the car, even though her friend told me to take her to hostel myself,” Ravinder said.
“I ask rowdy drunk men to get off on the road, but obviously I can’t do that with women,” he added.
While customers have instant ways to file complaints, most cab drivers told ThePrint that it was not so easy the other way around. Most of their complaints about drunk, rowdy passengers either go unheard or are not addressed properly.
“They give preference to customer’s complaints, not ours. And customer complaints impact our ratings, which incurs us losses,” said Dinesh Goswami, a driver.
Uber spokesperson Shonali Chakravarty told ThePrint that the company shares tips with drivers on festive occasions and holiday seasons.
“New Year’s Eve can be a time when a lot of riders may be in an inebriated condition. In case of any disagreements over trip related matters, please reach out to Uber support via in-app or the driver partner 24×7 helpline,” she added.
While for some New Years’ Eve is an occasion to unwind and party, for cab drivers it’s a night of bearing extra responsibility to provide a safe commute to their passengers, with added risks to their own jobs.