India, Australia discuss safety of Indian taxi drivers

May 29th, 2008 - 7:01 pm ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, May 29 (IANS) Indian and South Australian state authorities met in Adelaide Thursday and agreed to put in place a framework for continued dialogue on issues pertaining to safety and security of taxi drivers in the state following recent attacks on Indian cabbies. Sujan Chinoy, the Indian consul general in Sydney, held meetings with Hieu Van Le, the lieutenant governor of South Australia and chairman of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission, and representatives from the Transport and Police Departments, Taxi Council of South Australia, taxi companies, Indian taxi drivers and the Indian community.

“It was a very useful and positive meeting with all the stake holders present. We have agreed to put in place a framework for continued dialogue on issues pertaining to taxi drivers,” Chinoy told IANS.

Earlier this month, Balraj Singh, an Indian student and cabbie, was brutally beaten up in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, leading to protests by taxi drivers from the Indian subcontinent to demand better security and justice.

“The incident had sparked concern, not only amongst students but the larger Indian community. I have urged the South Australian government to take necessary steps to ensure such incidents don’t recur and we are working together on improving the safety and security of taxi drivers,” said Chinoy, who later also met South Australian Transport Minister Patrick Conlon.

It is estimated that out of the 5,500 cabbies, who drive the 985 taxis in Adelaide, about 67 percent are from the subcontinent.

“We have discussed the main issues concerning taxi drivers, which include quicker response time for alarms, stronger penalty for offenders, cabbies’ right to refuse intoxicated passengers, security screens, pre-payment of fares, better training for drivers and information brochures for drivers in Punjabi and Hindi besides English,” said Chinoy, who had also raised the issue with South Australian Premier Mike Rann in a letter May 23.

Amrik Thandi, a member of the Taxi Council of South Australia, told IANS: “It was a very constructive meeting with Australian and Indian authorities. It is a move in the right direction for improving the safety and security of taxi drivers in general.

“Balraj’s case was a very unfortunate incident. It is not a racially motivated case. Attacks happen on taxi drivers in general,” said Thandi, who migrated here from Pall Kadin village near Phillaur in Punjab in 1982 and has been driving taxis in Adelaide for the past 24 years.

Thandi, who owns 10 taxis, said: “I regularly employ students as drivers. About 90 percent of students drive taxis during the night and hence are more at risk.”

Many people from the subcontinent, who come on permanent residence visas, also choose to drive taxis while looking for jobs.

Matt Calemow, a spokesperson for the South Australian transport minister, said: “We are very pleased with the outcome of today’s meeting. We’ll continue to work with the Indian authorities and the community to ensure safety of cabbies in the state.”

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