“You are the son of a labourer. And that’s who you’ll always be,” a young Kiran Singh was told, when he struggled through school to pass his class 10. Where Kiran grew up, monthly pay cheques and ‘babu ki naukri’ (government jobs) were never the labourer’s dream.
In a remote village in Dahod, Gujarat, he saw his parents work 12 hours as farm hands and construction labourers to earn a meagre amount of Rs 250 for a hard day’s work. But Kiran was determined. He wasn’t going to live a labourer’s life. He packed his bags and left for Waghodia.
Today, at 22, he earns Rs 12,000 a month as a driver.
“I have a younger sister who is studying in class 8. I want her study and never give up on her dreams,” says Kiran.
He is now training for a license in heavy motor vehicles free of cost, at a state-of-the-art facility in Waghodia, and dreams to hit the road, explore new places and start his own transport business.
And he is not the only one.
When Nishanth Rathore completed his BA at Dabhoi in Vadodara, he was confident about landing a job. Passionate about driving, Nishanth wanted to work for the state public transport. But every time he went to the RTO office, his application got rejected. “They would always find faults in the documents. And I’d return home quietly, because I found it difficult to put my point across or ask for a justification.”
Talking to the delightful and confident 23-year-old now, one would find it difficult to believe he was an introvert. He now works for Apollo in Gandhinagar, and earns Rs 15,000 a month. He is on a short break to acquire a heavy motor license. “My eyes are set on equipping myself enough to land a government job,” he says.
The 20-acre campus of AGIDTTR (All Gujarat Institute of Driving, Technical Training and Research) is full of stories, aspirations and dreams of a thousand tribal youth like Nishanth and Kiran.
Established as a public-private-partnership (PPP) between the Ministry of Tribal Development (Gujarat) and Maruti Suzuki in 2009, this institute in Waghodia, 30km from the heart of Vadodara, is giving wings to the dreams of these tribal youth.
With the purpose of training underprivileged members of scheduled tribes in driving skills, it aims to boost their employability and provide equal opportunities.
The fact that it is the country’s only ‘residential driving school’ makes the institute stand out. It not only arms its students with road safety driving, but also equips them with basic life skills.
All of this, without charging a penny!
Belonging to the age group between 18 to 30, these young men from various remote villages and districts in Gujarat stay for a period of 45 days at the facility and undertake training courses for light motor vehicles (LMV), commercial vehicles, heavy motor vehicles, buses and forklifts.
From learning how to repair an engine to table etiquette, the focus is on all-round personality development. Basic English-speaking, how to respect women,
Basic English-speaking, how to respect women, importance of teamwork, workplace etiquette and grooming are also emphasised.
“Most of the boys who come to us, come from varied backgrounds. Their upbringing, values and goals are very different from the others they interact with. But over the span of 45 days, they learn to put their differences aside and work as one team,” says Rajneel Patel, a senior instructor at the institute.
A busy day at AGIDTTR starts with the sirens going off in the campus awakening the boys to conquer the day. At 8.45 am, over 300 boys assemble for their daily prayers, eat a sumptuous breakfast and disperse for their theory classes for the day.
Since most of these students complete their schooling and graduation from Gujarati-medium institutes, the syllabus is made easy to access by providing books in both Gujarati and English.
Senior instructor Dharmendra Maale, who has worked with the institute for the last eight years, says, “When a student is admitted to the facility the first step is to procure a learning license from the RTO. This includes a computer test. We train the students for seven days to crack this test. With theory and personality development, we simultaneously train students with our state-of-the-art training aids like simulators and dual controlled training vehicles.”
The institute has over five simulators with customized settings that allow the students to learn driving in various climatic and road conditions. In addition, they are exposed to a technical lab where they learn the various mechanical parts of a vehicle.
The on-field practicals take place in the institute’s 2.5-km-long training track with a mix of bends, slopes, intersections and parallel-parking spaces, designed to standards set by the British School of Motoring.
One of the highlights at AGIDTTR is the incorporation of the ARITRA technology.
‘Aritra’ means ‘navigator’ in Hindi. It is a multiple cam-setup overhead towers in the campus that show a live update of students driving on the track. In addition to this, the control room inside the institute records each of these practical videos to help students understand their mistakes and look at newer ways of improving their skills. While RTOs are adopting the technology for testing purposes, AGIDTTR is the only institute that uses it for training students.
The students are not only taught to access GPS on their smartphones but also trained to read hard copies of maps.
At the end of the course, the students are prepared to put their best foot forward to take the RTO test, following which most of them are placed by the institute with leading companies like Yazaki India, Sun Pharmaceuticals, Hindustan Coca Cola ltd, Vodafone, Apple cabs– just to name a few.
In keeping with its concept of preserving the green cover, the campus uses green building concepts like a terrace garden, cavity walls, rain water harvesting, sewage treatment plants and horticulture.
The hostel at AGIDTTR is nothing short of what one may imagine a college hostel to be.
Equipped with 30 rooms and 300 beds, the boys are under the care of Pinnu Bhai, the warden of the hostel. Pinnu Bhai keeps a 24×7 check on the boys, deals with their problems and fights, and keeps in touch with them long after they have left. Until a few years ago, most boys came from impoverished backgrounds — they had never used a toilet or even devoured a sumptuous meal.
Now, of course, times are changing and so are the challenges. But at the end of the day, they are just boys living the hostel life. “They fight over the community room TV remote, yet console each other when one gets homesick,” says Pinnu Bhai.
Over the last nine years, AGIDTTR has trained over 11,574 tribal youth and helped 8,307 of them get placed.
The institute’s 100% job placement guarantee in addition to the residential benefits, attracts most tribal youth. Speaking about one of their interesting success stories, Dharmesh Maale shares, “One of the students who came in was extremely passionate about driving. He wanted to learn it, but had one condition, he wouldn’t want to make it his profession. But staying at the institute made him realise how he could tap into his driving skills to make money in the market.” This student who worked as a driver for a year, is now the owner of a Maruti Suzuki Eeco and has his own transport business.