Mar 23, 2012

From beyond the grave [82/365]

Two days ago, a Pune court sentenced to death two drivers who raped and murdered a BPO staffer many years ago.
While I sympathize with loss of any human life, the system erred too.

Six years ago, one of my friend's colleague boarded a cab to go to work.
That was the last time she was seen alive.
Her cab driver drove her to an isolated village, raped her and killed her. Her belongings were stolen and it took a full three days before the driver was nabbed.
This crime created ripples in the BPO and ITES industry. (The news here)
Wide-sweeping changes were introduced.
Female employees would be accompanied by escorts when they traveled at night.
The Drivers can no longer call the female employees themselves but the transport help desk of the company, who would conference the employee with the driver.
Employees, on their part, where cautioned to not get 'too' friendly with the drivers, who are mostly illiterate and migrate from villages to cities in search of jobs.
Companies spent many lakhs in revamping the transport department, streamlining and plugging loopholes.
In the meanwhile, the driver responsible for this was only recently sentenced to death.

There is no easy way to describe a crime so gruesome, but there are a lot of loose ends.
How do I know? Well, I worked in the same company with the same people who worked and traveled with her. The same people who were warned by the company to be silent about the crime.
The driver had a previous grudge against the lady since she had complained against him. He lost his job shortly after this. This had sparked vengeance in his mind. Whether the complaint was genuine or not will never be proven. But this is true- Most employees, mainly women are very mean towards drivers. They expect them to be their chauffeurs, at their beck and call. Many won't step out of their house unless the driver is at their doorstep. Most will not hesitate to sent out a complaint.

Companies have always treated their women with kid gloves. Many of them are petrified of possible sexual harassment from frivolous women. Proving innocence becomes the onus of the companies.
At the expense of making sure complaints raised by women are dealt with promptly, they rush to grab the calf when the bull gives birth. The driver may have broken a traffic rule or two, may have been rude or silent at the employee, but this certainly didn't have to lead to a termination.
The company erred on their part by not being sensitive towards the driver. He was after all an employee with all the aspirations that the lady would have had too.

But the crime has sparked debate on how a lone driver who weighed less than the victim could drag her out, rape her and slit her throat. Although he has denied the role of any accomplices, I doubt it. When it took two men to do the same deed on a lady in Pune, I wonder how a lone driver could manage to carry it off in Bangalore. Interestingly, the husband of the victim had taken up an insurance on his wife only a few months before the murder. And he stood to get a million rupees (Rs 1,813,693/- to be exact) in the event of an unfortunate or unnatural death. If the bells have not started ringing yet, here's more. He mourned the loss of his wife and love of his life, got the cheque for a million rupees and then moved to another city to marry again to start his life afresh with a pot-load of cash. The needle of suspicion also points to the husband since he didn't seem too inclined to fight for the truth.
The law erred on their part when they didn't dig deep enough at the right time.

Companies periodically sent out reminders of their transport policy which indicate that employees are not supposed to build a rapport or unnecessary conversation. They are cautioned against 'pissing' the drivers off or asking the driver to change the radio station of their choice. Some companies even portray them as people who would not know how to behave themselves with women and can be tempted easily.
The system erred, when companies started treating drivers like third rate citizens.

I've traveled with all kinds of drivers. Some rude, some impatient, some indifferent, some ignorant. I've also traveled with drivers who are graduates, owners of businesses and married men who have been doing their job for more than a decade. A common feeling is how a single driver has soiled their reputation and trade. But most of them have been good people, with aspirations just the same as mine. One driver even wanted to learn many languages and do a bachelors degree through IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University).
It's easy for us to be irate at them when they pick us up a hour early or even if they don't. I know people who direct all their pent up rage and frustration towards drivers.
We erred too. By creating a bias in society, we've set ourselves up.

RIP. Let's hope we don't suffer more Prathiba's and Jyothikumari's.
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