Maruti helping tribals to drive and live

Updated: Mar 26, 2015, 14:35 PM IST

Vibha Sachdev

"My name is Vasara Mansukhbhai. I used to be a labourer and my earnings were very low. I used to earn Rs 4,000 a month earlier but now, after I learnt driving from here, I have started to earn Rs 8,000 a month."

"My name is Ratma Lakshman bhai... I belong to a small tribe here. Before coming here, I had never thought that I would ever even sit in a car. But today, I even drive. My monthly income is now about Rs 24,000. Earlier, there was no one with a driving license in my entire village but now, my friend and I both have driving licenses."

"My name is Vasaav Prakash. I bought my own car and today, I earning Rs 16,000 a month. I make good money from driving and have even renovated my dilapidated house."

"My name is Kailashbhai... I feel I have changed so much after receiving training from here. While learning driving from here, my personality also underwent a change. I feel whosoever comes here, his/her life changes completely. I have become ambitious after coming here to learn driving."

These are the words of tribal students who say All Gujarat Institute of Driving, Technical Training and Research (AGIDTTR) has changed their lives completely. They feel that words are not enough to express gratitude to this driving institute.

Located in a small village called Waghodia, about an hour's drive from Vadodara in Gujarat, is the beautiful and lush green 25-acre campus of AGIDTTR. Started in 2007, this is a no-profit society built on public-private partnership model where an exclusive MoU was signed between Maruti and Tribal Development department of the Gujarat government.

Till now, nearly 6000 students have learnt driving from here. For tribal students, this institute has come as a blessing given the fact that 14% of the state's has tribal roots. But, why did Maruti choose to set up a driving school for its CSR activities?

According to R C Bhargava, chairman, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, "People have little information about road safety. No one teaches them about road safety, nor there is any way by which one can learn about it. We felt that a driving school was needed in this country because before getting license, no one trains you on how one should be driving and more importantly, what are the rules and regulations to be followed while driving so that everyone's work goes on smoothly.”

The institute caters to minimum 8th standard pass SC/ST students. Students undergoing training at the institute are provided with free hostel facility as well as meals at the hostel's canteen. Having a canteen in an institute sounds normal but here at AGIDTTR, the canteen also serves as a medium of learning for students who have till now never eaten in a plate or never sat on a table and chair while having food. Maruti Suzuki makes every effort to provide students with nutritional meals.

The driving institute not just trains tribal students to become a driver but also teaches them important life skills. They are given lessons in personality development and grooming, spoken English, etiquettes, team building and road safety.

The institute has a capacity to train 2,400 students every year. There are 10 classrooms, 30 rooms and 300 beds. Students are given practical driving lessons on a two-kilometre long track inside the campus. Six cars and two simulators are available at the institute for training purpose – all given by Maruti.

For Maruti, CSR is not just limited to driving schools. I remember visiting a government school supported by Maruti in a village called Sarhaul in Gurgaon. I was amazed to see this facility as it changed the perception of a government school I had in my mind. The lawns and garden of the school were beautiful and well-maintained. The philosophy behind supporting schools is to create a competitive and education-oriented environment in schools so that dropout rates decline. Maruti had earlier renovated the entire building of the school and and ensured clean toilets within the facility which ultimately benefited the students. The students who have witnessed the change say, they now feel like coming to the school. Sample some of the comments of the students:

"Now there are parks and toilets in our school. Earlier, we didn't even have benches."

"There are computer and science labs in our school now that help us in our studies."

"Maruti has made this school look good."

"From karate to boxing to kho kho, we are now given sports training."

According to the school's principal, after Maruti started supporting the school a lot has changed. Now, students don't run away from the school anymore. The principal added that results have also improved.

"We understood this a long time back that if we are doing business and the local community does not see any benefit from Maruti, then sustainability of the business may become difficult," said Bhargava.