NGO Manas is training autorickshaw drivers to be polite and cordial ‘hosts’

Often accused of misbehaving with commuters, the city auto-rickshaw drivers would be advised by their trainers to extend facilities to passengers that make the “auto space” welcoming and amicable.

Manas, a non-government organisation that runs two training centres for auto drivers at Burari in North Delhi and Loni in neighbouring Ghaziabad, plans to motivate them to keep magazines, provide mobile phone charging facility and even make available for the passengers wi-fi internet connectivity in the near future.

Manas has also launched a helpline ‘Auto Sahara’ (011-41708517) dedicated to the problems faced by auto drivers.

The existing module to train the drivers, which has been prepared by social activist Kamla Bhasin, includes gender sensitisation that was not a part of the old programme. The subject was added to the curriculum following the December 16 gang-rape case that shook the conscience of the entire nation.

A team of four trainers, including clinical psychologists, educate the auto drivers through slide and screen shows, psycho analysis games and interactive lectures that include data on crimes against women. They are also taught simpler things like why a woman’s umbrella and shoes are small and that some women dress differently and smoke.

“We ask them to take home three key messages after the class: change attitude, change Delhi, be polite and make personalised space in public transport,” says Monika Kumar, the NGO managing trustee and co-founder.

The training is imparted six days a week. As part of the module, one hour of the training is on fitness certificates that includes checking/clearing the documents. Another hour is spent on behavioural training. “At a time, we train about 200 drivers from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. So far we have trained 3,800 drivers since January,” says Shristi Sardana, a trainer and clinical psychologist.

“Delhi gives a culture shock to most auto drivers who come from smaller towns. During the training, we tell them that the city houses people from different cultures in a bid to deconstruct their orthodox notions in a gradual manner. We tell them how and why they have to be tolerant to a woman dressing up in a particular way or smoking or becoming aggressive to ensure that they have a clear understanding of their language, behaviour and attitude,” says Shristi.

She adds: “We circulate among the drivers some chits bearing different roles of women and ask them to pick the one which according to them should be their role. It is amazing to note that most end up giving first preference to cooking and the last to her education. We then deconstruct this notion, explaining them the whys.”

The NGO co-founder says: “We never blame them for what they are usually accused of, but share with them the realities such as statistics showing that men kill 55 per cent of women in the womb. They often tell us that they don’t like woman smoking, or couples coming close to each other to their discomfiture in their auto, or women not paying full fair yet threatening to lodge complaint, and that what should they do in such situations. We suggest to them the ways to resolve the issues amicably,” says Monika.

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