A Wellington-based Kiwi-Indian taxi driver is seriously considering not returning to the job after he was left-shaken and injured after an unprovoked assault by a passenger while on the job.
Girish Walia, who has been driving Hutt and City Taxis for the last five years is scared and unsure if he will return to his job for the concerns of safety after he was assaulted by a female passenger for asking travel fare upfront – before starting the travel.
Speaking to The Indian Weekender Mr Walia said, “I don’t feel like driving anymore; I don’t think I will feel safe picking any passenger now.”
The incident occurred on Monday, August 19, at around 9:30 p.m. in Waterloo - an eastern suburb of Wellington when Mr Walia received a notification to pick a passenger from near a dairy store with a request to be dropped at the hospital.
Mr Walia told The Indian Weekender that his company Hutt and City Taxis and the local police had advised cab drivers that when in doubt about passenger’s potential behaviour then it was appropriate to ask for fare upfront before embarking upon the journey.
Following his assessment, when Mr Walia asked upfront for the likely $12 fare from the local Waterloo dairy to hospital, the female passenger only produced $7 cash. A subsequent polite refusal by Mr Walia to embark on the journey ahead was meted out with an unsuspecting, and sustained attack with a glass bottle on his hand and forehead.
“When I told her that the fare was not sufficient, and she will have to get off the vehicle, the passenger abruptly started hitting me with a glass bottle on my head multiple times,” Mr Walia said.
“I tried pushing her aside and keeping her away from my head by using my left hand. She held my hand and continued hitting on it in a rage,” Mr Walia recalled.
“My immediate gut feeling was to quickly get out of that isolated road so I started driving slowly to find some help.”
“The lady kept holding my left hand and hitting continuously, till the time I drove for around 200 meters to find a busy bus stop.”
It might have taken a few minutes for him to get his mind around what was happening to him and eventually finding a safe and busy place, and the ordeal had continued for that time, Mr Walia told The Indian Weekender.
Meanwhile the passenger remained adamant asking for keys so that she could drive to the hospital by herself.
After almost a minute and a half of calling for help, a man came forward and asked him to step out of the car to safety and called on the passenger to step out. The driver stopped his car engine, taking his keys readily jumped off his vehicle while people around called 111 for police.
The passenger then climbed on to the driver seat from her back seat and demanded keys to drive the vehicle herself. While shouting for keys, she threw the taxi’s logbook, coin/cash box, other gadgets needed by the taxi etc.
“While we asked her to come out of the car, the enraged passenger threw everything she found on the dashboard and front passenger seat outside the car- cash, coins, my logbook, other electronic items, other keys etc.,” Mr Walia added.
The passenger then started smoking when the police arrived and asked her to step out of the vehicle. On non-cooperation, police pointed their gun at her when she finally gave in and was arrested.
“The ambulance gave me the first aid, and I was driven to the hospital where I received two stitches to the cut between my eyebrows and eyes, bruises on my forehead, wrist and elbow which is swollen now,” Mr Walia said.
The family of Mr Walia is understandably shaken after the incident.
“It’s not like we do not help passengers who have less money with them, sometimes we just drop them and not ask for money- but what can you do when someone starts hitting you suddenly without uttering a word or even putting a small request.
“This incident has left me shocked and in immense psychological and physical pain and I don’t know when can I return behind the wheels as a driver,” Mr Walia added.
Mr Walia’s taxi company Hutt and City Taxis have come forward providing him and his family with the necessary support at this hour.
“Our drivers are trained and well aware of the perils of the job- it is rare but a violent incident has happened and we are providing any assistance needed by him,” Gurtej Singh, Manager and spokesperson from Hutt and City Taxis told The Indian Weekender.
The Police told The Indian Weekender that “a female youth was arrested and received a pre-charge warning for assault and wilful damage.”
Mr Walia has been living in the country for more than twenty years and worked as a restaurateur before driving taxis.