Taxi drivers protest bashing of Indian cabbie in Adelaide

May 19th, 2008 - 2:48 pm ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, May 19 (IANS) Taxi drivers, mostly from the subcontinent, are protesting to demand better security and justice following the brutal bashing of cabbie Balraj Singh over the weekend in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia province. The incident comes close on the heels of the stabbing of an Indian student cabbie, Jalvinder Singh, in Melbourne on April 29.

Balraj Singh told ABC TV from his hospital bed at Flinders Medical Centre that he was punched in the right eye and had his seatbelt wrapped around his neck by a man in the back seat. He has sustained facial injuries including a broken nose.

Singh said, “You’re not safe at night time. You don’t know the people you pick up, who they are.”

There was traffic gridlock Monday morning as drivers parked about 50 taxis in front of the Sir Samuel Way courts building in Victoria Square in Adelaide for about 45 minutes and then rallied through main thoroughfares in this City of Churches.

Shouting slogans of “we want justice” over the bashing of cabbie Balraj Singh on the weekend, some drivers took off their shirts near the railway station, demanding better safety equipment, up-front fares at night and better training.

On Sunday night, more than 120 cabbies had protested chanting “we need protection”. Like the Melbourne taxi drivers, the Adelaide cabbies are demanding the South Australian state government legislate for security screens to be fitted inside cabs.

Another cabbie, 26-year-old computer science student at the University of South Australia, Mohsin Misra said, “We are prepared to protest until the government says security screens have to be put in taxis. We have no protection. If they can do it in Melbourne why not here.”

Emotions are running high as cabbies hold rallies in the city and at the airport. Cabbie Amrik Singh Thandi says, “They (taxi drivers) are fearful. It’s not only happened to one taxi driver, it’s happened to many taxi drivers. But some of them report and some of them don’t report it. They’re very angry, they’re very fearful, especially in the night time.”

However, Art Dreimanis from the Cab Drivers Association has told local media, “We’ve got drivers out there that are not properly trained that the government refuses to recognise this - it’s a critical issue in inflaming these assaults. We are exploiting our immigrants by getting them to become cheap labour in the taxi industry.”

“I mean we should have the decency at least to train them properly, to skill them on what sort of situations they could face out there and we should have more interest in the work environment,” he added.

The drivers Monday met the Taxi Council of South Australia office Jim Triantafyllou to put forth their demands that includes security screens in taxis and compulsory advance fares from late night passengers.

Meanwhile, two 24-year-old men have been charged with aggravated assault and robbery for the latest assault.

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