English lessons for India’s rickshaw drivers

Auto-rickshaw drivers are being taught English ahead of the Commenwealth Games.
Indian tourism authorities will be holding English classes for auto-rickshaw drivers in New Delhi as the city prepares to host the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

More than 40,000 natural gas-fueled auto-rickshaws, or motorized three-wheeled taxis, run on the Indian capital’s dilapidated roads, according to the city government statistics. The city is expected to host around 100,000 tourists during the Commonwealth Games scheduled from October 3-14 in 2010. About 9,000 athletes and officials of 52 Commonwealth countries are likely to participate. Some 8,000 auto-rickshaw drivers will be enrolled in the training program that will involve classes in yoga, life skills, first aid, spoken English and psychometric tests, federal Tourism Secretary Sujit Banerjee announced Tuesday. Each trainee will be paid Rs 200, or about $4, daily for attending the program spread over 200 sessions for a year. Indian auto-rickshaw drivers have often been accused of overcharging, refusing short trips and misbehavior. Traffic authorities have in the past opened a range of avenues for passengers to lodge their complaints — such as on help lines, via text messages or simply calling a telephone number printed on the three-wheeled cabs. “The India image that we strive to convey to a foreign tourist depends, to a large degree, on how good the taxi/auto-rickshaw (driver) that he or she meets is in his demeanor and conduct,” Banerjee remarked.