Why cabbies in Delhi are carrying condoms in their first-aid boxes
Just for emergencies
At the Nelson Mandela Marg traffic point, just as the cab swerves away from JNU, Uber driver Dharmendra spots a traffic cop. His seat belt is on, the car is cruising at 50km/hour and he has on him a faded blue shirt which he calls his uniform.
“I even have a packet of condoms in my first aid box,” he says, fishing out a plastic container from the glove box. Inside, there is a bottle of Dettol, paracetamol tablets, bandages and a sachet that has a couple in a tight embrace. Tension Free, screams the label.
"Recently," he said, "I was challaned for not keeping condoms with me. Ever since, I am very careful.” The receipt for the penalty however shows he was over speeding. A large number of cab drivers in Delhi-NCR keep condoms in their vehicles believing it is mandatory and they could be fined if found travelling without it.
“It is compulsory for all public service vehicles to carry three condoms at all times, which is kept inside the first aid box,” said Kamaljeet Gill, president of the Sarvodaya Driver Association of Delhi, a group working on Ola or Uber platforms. But ask the drivers and they either don’t have the faintest idea what the condoms are for or are just sanskari-coy. Gill himself said condoms come handy in situations where someone breaks a bone or suffers a cut. “In case a person starts bleeding, the condom can be used to stop it. Similarly, if someone has a fracture, a condom can be tied around the area until he reaches a hospital,” he said earnestly. There are nonmedical benefits of condoms as well, Gill added. “It can hold up to three litres of liquid”.
Drivers say they can be slapped with a fine if they are found rubber-less, but don’t know which rule or advisory mandates this. “I have heard from others that we are supposed to keep condoms. I always keep at least one,” said Ramesh Pal, a cab driver. “While I have never been asked to produce a condom by a traffic policeman, sometimes I have been asked about it during the annual fitness test at the transport authority.”
On their part, officials maintain there isn’t a provision like that. “No driver is asked if he’s carrying condoms during fitness tests at our vehicle checking centre,” an officer at the transport department said, requesting anonymity. “However, NGO workers reach out to drivers outside the centre to educate them about safe sex. It is possible that drivers have developed the habit of keeping condoms from there,” he explained. Police officers concur. “There have been no instances where people were challaned for this,” a senior cop said. “In case anyone has, we request the person concerned to approach us with a complaint and we will enquire into the allegations and take legal act ion.”
What's in the box
Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules (1993) stipulates that every “stage carriage” and “contract carriage” (the permit given to taxis) shall carry a first aid box containing sterilized finger dressing, hand or foot dressing, body dressing (one extra large), two large and three small burn dressings, two 15 grams packets of cotton wool, a bottle of 2% tincture iodine, sal volatile, an empty bottle fitted with dropper for the eyes and a medicine glass. There is no mention of condoms in the guidelines or in the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.