A doctor in Delhi was rescued last night after being held for ransom by an Ola driver for a fortnight, police have informed local media.
The doctor, Shrikant Goud from the southern state of Telangana, booked a ride to go home around midnight after a party in East Delhi on July 6. Instead of taking him home to South Delhi, the driver veered off to Dadri in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, threatening to kill the doctor if he tried to raise an alarm. In Dadri, a gang of kidnappers joined the driver in the car.
The kidnappers first made a ransom call to Ola, demanding INR 50 million (US$776,000), using the doctor’s phone. They followed this up with a call to the hospital, and also sent video clips of the doctor.
The kidnappers continued to use the doctor’s phone in the following days, perhaps in the notion they would not be traced if they didn’t use their own phones. Police came close to nabbing them in the Uttar Pradesh town of Meerut, then tracked them down again in the busy pilgrim town of Haridwar where the Ganges flows down from the Himalayas. But the kidnappers escaped.
Finally, a tip-off took the police back to a building under construction in Meerut. The kidnappers opened fire when the police arrived. One of the kidnappers took a bullet in the thigh. Four of them, including the driver, were arrested after the shootout and the doctor was rescued unharmed. The police believe the mastermind of the operation wasn’t on the scene, and are interrogating the arrested abductors.
In December 2014, an Uber driver was arrested in Delhi for sexually assaulting a young woman passenger. This was the first such incident involving an app-based ride-hailing service in India, and it shattered a sense of security that most passengers took for granted until then. The driver was found to be a repeat offender who, in 2011, had spent seven months in Delhi’s Tihar jail for rape but was acquitted later.
The latest incident will again raise questions on the checks in place for onboarding of drivers and emergency systems on ride-hailing apps.
Tech in Asia has reached out to Ola for comments on this incident.