As part of the push towards encouraging tourism in Delhi in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games 2010, the Union tourism ministry is engaged in a number of initiatives that aim to improve the Capital’s image as a tourist-friendly city. In the last 11 months, nearly 3,000 autorickshaw drivers, taxi drivers and Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) bus drivers have taken a day away from their vehicles, sat in classrooms and been lectured to on spoken English. The classes are conducted by the Haryana Institute of Public Administration (Hipa) in Gurgaon. The institute hopes to train nearly 3,500 taxi drivers, 8,000 autorickshaw drivers and 2,500 bus drivers by October.
The drill: An English-language class for policemen in New Delhi. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
We spoke to institute director Rajni Shekhari Sibal on the structure of these programmes, and how they’re not just about etiquette or English. Edited excerpts:
Could you tell us a little bit about who conducts the programmes? Why was it started?
The programme is under the ministry of tourism of the government of India, and is conducted by the Haryana Institute of Public Administration. The ministry provides the funds, and the Delhi Police has helped with the logistics of getting it all together. We’re looking at providing what we call “capacity building” for “service providers”—which in this specific case includes auto drivers, taxiwallahs and DTC bus drivers. We want to make Delhi a tourist-friendly city, and these service providers are usually a tourist’s first point of contact, and their experience with them leaves an impression.
We also noticed that most of the drivers did not have any form of health insurance, so we have modules focusing on that as well.
What kind of etiquette does the programme focus on? Is it more a general list of dos and don’ts or training for specific situations?
It’s not just “etiquette”—we’ve been frequently mischaracterized in the media as providing just etiquette classes. We focus on empowerment, both in their workspace and in life. In the latter category, we have yoga and stress management classes, and we provide a certified first-aid course. In the workspace, we have “personality development” modules that include English lessons, courses on the history of Delhi and NCR (National Capital Region), basic etiquette, and we also show them this film we made called Pride of Nation that we hope inculcates a sense of pride in them.
We’re also doing a lot of specific training—like gender sensitization and helping the handicapped. For auto drivers, we have a special programme on business strategies, where we try and convince them that it makes more financial sense for them to take frequent, short, fast trips rather than wait for that one long trip. We also have modules on personal finance, where we discuss ways they can save money.
How do you ensure the training carries over in some form after the classes are over?
You’ll be amazed at the atmosphere we see in the classes, and what they take away. We do role playing with specific situations, where we test their first-aid knowledge (CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, applying bandages, among others), we practise sightseeing routines and test their explanations of the importance of historical monuments. We teach them special yoga exercises that they can do while seated in the car. We also give them toolkits after the day’s lessons—an audio CD of lessons in spoken English that they can listen to for practice, a first-aid kit and phonetically written booklets that they can use for reference.
We’re also planning, right before the games start, a refresher course. We’ll make them take some sort of test or examination, to see if they’ve retained what the classes have covered.