Handled with care
“26,200 people die in road accidents each year in India just because drivers don't get sleep. That is three people every hour,” says Ramesh Agarwal, CEO of Agarwal Packers & Movers Ltd and the former president of the All India Transport Association. In a survey conducted by his company with over 200 drivers, Agarwal found that although the drivers would rest for 7-8 hours, they would not sleep a wink. The reasons were valid and plenty. Chief among them were the fear of goods theft, petrol theft and harassment by the police. Instead of sleeping, these drivers would have to guard their vehicles. The fatigue and lack of sleep became a leading cause of road accidents.
Agarwal hit upon the idea of creating a resting stop for sleepless truck drivers. This Driver Seva Kendra would include all the comforts required by the drivers. He bought a 50-acre plot in a place called Dudu between Jaipur and Ajmer and made the centre. "It has a parking space for 250 trucks, 500 beds, 500 fans and blankets, 10 barbers, 10 people to serve and rest room facilities. We did this and called drivers to say they can sleep here,” says Agarwal. “I told them if there is any theft, I'll take insurance for it, I'll look after it. But you go to sleep! This is how we took the step of giving them the opportunity to sleep for 8 hours. We called this work “Nidradaan” or the act of giving sleep.”
Since its inception, more than 15,000 drivers have come to their kendra. Any driver is welcome to this sleeping house and more than 500 drop in each day. Agarwal is convinced that this needs to be done all over India. “ We need 450 such houses and our budget for that is Rs 9500 crore. The industry needs to take the initiative to build these centres,” he says. “Why should we depend on the government? The only way the government can help is to stop taking bribes and allow the centres to run smoothly.”