Never has Sukumaran Nair seen such a huge amount of money and hardly does he use a mobile phone.

But when he found a bag with Rs.30,000 in cash and two latest phones in his vehicle, the autorickshaw driver promptly approached the police and hand edover the bag.

Mr. Nair is a regular at the awareness classes for autorickshaw drivers conducted by the Fort PS Janamaitri under the Fort police station in Thiruvananthapuram city.

“I am an honest man and I am satisfied with the income I earn running the autorickshaw,” said Mr. Nair, who looked overwhelmed when he was felicitated at one such meeting here on Thursday.

A group of auto drivers from the 12 regions under the Fort PS Janamaitri had gathered for the monthly meeting, which was first held a few months ago under the community policing initiative.

This was not merely an awareness session for the drivers, but a venue for open interaction between police officials and drivers.

The drivers voiced their concerns and experiences to their fellow drivers and to the police. They claim to have a healthy relationship with the police.

Arul Das, for example, has been alerting the police about accidents or people who need their help. “A few weeks ago, while I was returning from work late night, I noticed a mentally ill woman lying unconscious near the Overbridge junction. I immediately alerted the police at the Fort station,” said Mr. Das, who has been driving autorickshaw for more than 12 years.

However, many are concerned about the negative perception about them among the public and see these sessions as a way to take up group initiatives to change this perception.

“Some drivers demand extra fare and do not follow rules. But every profession will have such persons. But because of some stray incidents, the public see all the drivers in the same way. We too have a family and do honest work,” said Rajkumar, a driver.

Communication relationship officer at the Fort station D.Jayaraj said that the public should also understand the problems of drivers.

“Some are genuinely willing to help the public. They should not be typecast. These classes are aimed at helping them to be friendlier with the public and the police,” he said.