You DON’T Commit murder… ONLY accident!

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You DON’T Commit murder… ONLY accident!

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It is a sheer coincidence that the BJP Prime Ministerial Candidate Narendra Modi and I happen to hit the Kalyan belt on the same day (21 April 2014). Our objectives were same in a way; also different in another way. NaMo was expected to canvas votes for his party candidate from that constituency. On the other hand, I was to canvass with truck drivers to dress properly and thus move up the value chain in terms of getting greater acceptance from the white collar babus whom these soldiers on Indian highways serve – without realizing their stellar role! Commonality between NaMo and my campaign was or is: kalyan… jana kalyan (society welfare!)

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It’s child’s play to script a plan or program. Execution is lot more tougher. Having scripted the Mumbai-Pune Road Trip more than a month ago in the cool climes of Delhi home with the idea of donating soft pillows to truck drives to enable them sleep better in their trucks, the logistics of procurement, storage and distribution challenged immensely. Solutions have to be local to keep cost manageable. That’s where Lalitha Sundaresan, family friend based out of Mumbai, threw her weight around. She coordinated the pillow buy of 100 plus in Mumbai. Tks, Lalitha-ji!

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My 21000 KM odyssey with truck drivers (2010-12) gave a glimpse of their dietary patterns. They don’t eat well. And not the right food. Tea they gulp in gallons. Tobacco items (gutkha, mostly) consumes a lot of their disposable income. Why not digestive jal jeera? Why not scented elaichi? Luckily these healthy items are available on roadside shops like these and hawked cheaper than their preference. So, I stopped and stocked a few 100 pouches for my driver mates from this +2 Babloo on Kalyan naka under the gaze of NaMo hoarding.

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Next halt: this pharmacy at Kalyan naka while we waited for Vijay Patil, a local NGO (Sambhav Foundation) chief, to join us. The shopping list consisted of shaving kit: blades, gel and some lozenges to soothen sore throats. Some shampoo pouches too. What for? One of the issues that bug these truck drivers is that they are ‘NOT respected’ by anyone. My prescription for this low self esteem is “dress properly & command respect”. Why this ‘beggary appearance always?’ Shave first. Dress washed and ironed cloth, if possible. Change yourself first before changing others.

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Meet Dr Vijay Pawar. No, he is not a practising physician, though he did specialise in ayurvedic medicines to become a ‘doktor’. Somehow this suave and soft spoken Marathi manoos got sucked into social sphere to pursue ‘jana kalyan’ as a career option. Today, he is Deputy Manager- Corporate Social Responsibility @ Mahindra Logistics, my main partner in ameliorating the lifestyle of truck drivers. Vijay is instrumental in this weeklong Mumbai-Pune Road Trip and of course, he is my co-traveler. Together we had done over 1,000 km past year in long trips. Drivers, both of us genuinely feel, are one of us. Our driver Pande from UP (inset) lunches with us at the same table en route sharing the same food we all eat.

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First things, first. Get the banner fixed at the entrance of Mahindra Logistics, Bhiwandi warehouse. Helping hands galore.

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Dr Vijay Pawar engages Sushil Cherian, Partner, Anantara Solutions, (extreme left) while truck drivers troop in for the 90 minute long session on understanding highway signs before walking away with soft pillows and some snacks. And a lot of fun, involving them!

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Pillows are stacked. Will it be sufficient? Not everyone is going to get it. Some have to go back empty handed. This is not a school where one has to ensure every kid gets his/her toffee. Tension grips the assembled truck drivers because they mentally do the pillow count and their own strength in the spacious hall where they are seated. There’s a demand-supply gap!

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After a minute long silent prayer/homage to all departed souls of truck drivers while on duty, host Sanjay Ranadive of Mahindra Logistics welcomes the gathering of truck drivers, colleagues and us. By the way, the theme song sung by Sonali Mohapatra, conceived by Siddhi Vinayak Logistics when they started National Driver’s Day September 17 last year has been on the loop right from the moment we walked in setting up the stage etc.

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Uday Kulkarni of Mahindra Logistics – the man in charge of the state-of-the-art warehouse at Bhiwandi impresses upon the audience the need for better dressing and safety concerns: wear safety belt, drive on the left side. “Realize the important role you all play. Stop sulking,” advises he to the attentive audience.

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I believe in L-Cube: Life Long Learning. Hearing portly Sushil Cherian of Anantara Solutions (advisors on supply chain and logistics to several companies) is really educative. He throws a bombshell: “You’re like God,” he tells the truck driver audience. How? “When someone is knocked off/killed on highways by you (truck drivers), police don’t call it ‘murder’ but ‘accident’. That is the kind of responsibility the State has bestowed on them. So they have to act responsibly. “Only God enjoys that privilege!” says a cheeky Cherian!

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NGO man Patil does not miss the opportunity to cajole drivers on the need to understand highway signs. When you drive safely, you’re not only saving your lives, but others as well.

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When white collar guys – like you and I – can indulge in a bit of fun at regular get togethers – sponsored by management – why not these men who ensure we lead normal life on a daily basis have some entertainment? Blow the balloon till it bursts is the name of the game. They enjoy immensely. Engage them. After all, they are also humans – like you and I.

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“My name is so-and-so. I am a DRIVER” … Well, each driver when called onto receive pillows chosen by drivers themselves by rotation is asked to proclaim LOUDLY this statement. “Hum kissi se kam nahi” (We are not inferior to anyone), is preached! They are told to get out of low self-esteem. Proper dressing in a way boosts self confidence.

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Drivers are encouraged to open up and voice their concerns with the management whom they serve. This young driver takes the floor to share his grievances. Don’t bottle up your feelings. Let the other party hear you out. Two way communication is essential.

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They smilingly accept that everyone cannot be a winner. Some walk out with soft pillows. Others, empty-handed. That’s life. As the program began with one minute homage to departed souls of truck drivers while on duty, the function ends with National Anthem. Jai ho!

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Deep Apartment, 52 Ward No. 1, Behind Punjab National Bank, Mehrauli, New Delhi 110 030/India ramesh@krkfoundation.org IMPROVING Truck Drivers’ Working & Living Conditions

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Truckers, The BACKBONE of India

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Am part of your ECOSYSTEM. Help me to help YOU!