Auto drivers across all of India are almost the same. Some are really polite and courteous whereas some are grumpy and irritating. Importantly, one thing that is never associated with rickshaw drivers in India is professionalism.
They can refuse you a ride depending on their mood. However, don’t be surprised if you find courteous and sophisticated auto drivers in Bengaluru. And the credit of this change goes to investment banker Anil Shetty. Check out how Shetty stepped out of the way to understand the plight of the auto drivers and is now making a difference to the way they behave and react.
Anil Shetty Was Disturbed By Struggles Of Autorickshaw Drivers
Every commuter in the metropolis has his share of grumpy and inconsiderate experiences from autorickshaw drivers. It is more or less a compromise for commuters to just take such things for granted so that they ultimately manage to reach their respective destinations.
Things seem to be changing in Bengaluru especially after Anil Shetty started the Peace Auto Movement in 2013. More than a decade ago when Anil came to the Karnataka’s capital for pursuing engineering from his small village in the Udupi district, he faced regular issues with the transport facilities. That is when he decided to find out the root cause of this and began to interact with a few auto drivers who later on became his friends.
The auto drivers discussed with him their problems such as the heavy auto rents that took a major part of their earnings, income insecurity, high-interest rates charged by moneylenders, increasing fuel and maintenance cost. Importantly, despite doing all these struggles, the autorickshaw drivers profession still was far off from getting any dignity or medical aid through health insurance.
Also, there was a huge racket of illegal mafia that dealt with the spare part dealings. Plus the harassment from the police made their lives quite frustrating.
Auto Peace Movement Converted Into Co-operative
Distressed by the struggles of these autorickshaw drivers Shetty decided to start a Peace Auto Movement on Oct 2, 2013. During these years he had also dropped from engineering college to first become a social entrepreneur and then an investment banker.
The aim behind the launch of this Peace Auto Movement was to bring more dignity to this profession and change the outlook of the commuters towards the auto drivers.
Initially, the movement started off only with 7 peace autos. Today more than 1500 peace autos offer their service across Bengaluru helping 20,000 people in the city reach their destination. The movement is now converted into a co-operative and has more than Rs. 25 lakhs in its account.
According to Shetty, “People manning autos have just as much responsibility as public servants like police officers or other high ranking officials.”
Who Is A Peace Auto Driver?
A peace autorickshaw driver is the one who is professionally trained not to refuse a customer. He is courteous and always talks politely with a genuine smile. A peace auto driver does not cheat the customers, charges according to the meter readings, and carries an identity proof.
He always returns items left by the commuters in his vehicle, maintains the auto, keeps it clean, follows traffic rules and wears a well-groomed uniform. The drivers try to track down the owners and return leftover items. The co-operative also has a welfare fund for its members which helps auto drivers during an unfortunate incidence financially and morally.
More than 200 peace rickshaws carry a mini-library offering free to read magazines and newspapers to the customers. The auto drivers always ask for feedback to maintain consistency in their services.
How Is Peace Auto Driver Selected?
It is not easy to get selected as a peace auto driver, According to Shetty, “We don’t accept anyone who applies. We run a rigorous recruitment process where we do a complete background check to ensure no criminal records exist of the auto driver. We conduct one-on-one personal interviews to check their temperament. Only the ones who want to genuinely work hard and live in a dignified manner are chosen to be Peace Auto drivers.”
As a part of the Peace Auto Movement, Anil Shetty started “Filmfare for Namma Heroes,” a felicitation program for honoring auto drivers.
The program has celebrities from Kannada film industry or Sandalwood participating in the program. Last year the ceremony was conducted in Hotel Shangri La. This year, Shetty is planning to organize it in Hotel Conrad. The co-operative movement also celebrates Auto day during which the best auto drivers are awarded Peace Auto Awards.