Melbourne cabbies protest attack on Indian student cab driver (Lead)

April 29th, 2008 - 8:14 pm ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, April 29 (IANS) Hundreds of taxi drivers blockaded a major intersection in the heart of Melbourne Tuesday after an Indian student, who was a part-time taxi driver, was found with severe stab wounds early morning. The 23-year-old Indian student was found by a passerby just before 6 a.m. (AEST) Tuesday in a critical condition, covered in blood with multiple stab wounds to the upper body.

“He is an Indian student but we won’t be releasing his name because none of his family is in Australia. He is in a critical but stable condition at the Royal Melbourne Hospital,” a Victoria Police spokesperson told IANS.

He was stabbed several times in the chest apparently by a passenger and left to die outside a hotel in the Clifton Hill suburb of Melbourne in freezing conditions.

“It appears the offender then drove the taxi a short distance before it collided with a street sign,” the official said.

Detective Senior Constable Brendan Smith told reporters the police had found the abandoned crashed taxi at about 3 a.m. (AEST) but could not immediately find the driver.

“We’d say that he’s received stab wounds… and we’re receiving regular updates from the hospital as to his condition. We’re still unclear as to what happened in the taxi, but for a man to receive stab wounds and end up in a critical condition in hospital is obviously a very vicious attack and, if completely unprovoked, is very, very concerning,” Smith said.

Yarra Criminal Investigation Unit detectives have released three images of a man they believe can assist with their investigation and detectives are urging him to come forward and hand himself in to the nearest police station.

Meanwhile, about 300 taxi drivers, mostly from the Indian sub-continent, began staging a protest at 6 p.m. during peak traffic hour at the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets in the heart of Melbourne’s Central Business District.

Said Pritam Singh Gill, secretary of the Victorian Taxi Drivers Association: “The drivers are very upset with this. The government promised us security and safety for drivers more than 18 months ago and they haven’t done anything so far.”

The taxi drivers are demanding better safety and fitting of protective security screens immediately in their vehicles.

State Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky told reporters: “It’s obviously a very distressing incident and it’s certainly something that we’re very concerned about in terms of safety in taxis.”

Earlier, calls for more security for Melbourne taxi drivers from violent passengers were intensified when in August 2006, a 27-year-old part-time taxi driver, Rajneesh Joga, was killed when a 20-year-old man tried to hijack his taxi by pushing him out of the moving vehicle.

Joga, who hailed from Hyderabad, was doing his Master of Accountancy at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).

Since then there have been a series of violent incidents.

“Last time one of the taxi drivers was killed, the government promised us there will be taxi shields inside the cabs. We are treated like second-class citizens in Australia,” Sunny Singh of suburban Blackburn was quoted as saying by local media.

Late last year, another taxi driver of Indian origin sustained stab wounds inflicted by a fare-evading passenger. Baljinder Singh, 25, had told reporters: ”I don’t think that I will drive cabs (again). I’m not scared but there’s always a risk to your life.”

There are about 12,000 Indian overseas students enrolled in various universities in Melbourne and many of them drive taxis part-time to support themselves.

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