Kolkata, the city of joy, heartily welcomes and provides warmth to tourists; they often suffer a setback due to the grumpy attitude of the cab drivers.
When tourists step out of the airport or the railway station, they have to depend on cab drivers to reach their destination. As they say, the first impression can be the last impression; a lot depends on the cab drivers’ behavior to set up a picture of the hospitality the city offers to her visitors. A sudden rebuff or unfriendly gesture towards the tourist may send a negative signal.
Not just tourists, it’s the same tale of sorrow for daily commuters as well. “I have a hard time to convince a Taxi driver after the clock ticks 9 at night while returning home. As I stay in the city outskirts, I hear the same response everyday from the cabbies. They reject my pleas on the ground of not getting a return passenger. Is that my concern?” said Sudeshna Mukherjee, a young city engineer in a disappointed tone.
Lessons in etiquette for Kolkata cabbies
To bring in a positive change in the cab driver’s attitude, etiquette lessons had been given to them in July; it was an attempt by the state government, in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The classes were conducted at the Police Training School on AJC Bose Road.
A two-day module was designed for each batch of 30 cab drivers to train them to be well-mannered with their passengers and instill in their minds the role they play as a city representative.
Personal hygiene, safe driving, deterrence from tobacco-chewing and smoking inside taxi were the main highlights of the training programme; they were also be trained to greet passengers in English. Guidebooks and kits including pamphlets on city’s tourist spots were provided. Departments of Tourism and Transport of the state government coordinated the program with CII, in the presence of Kolkata Police, along with Taxi drivers ‘and owners’ associations.
“The transport department shortlisted the taxi drivers in a phased manner. We hope to accommodate at least 10 batches in the first chapter. It’s going to be a two day module for each batch” said Saugat Mukherjee, regional director, CII, eastern region.
The training program can bring a positive behavioral change only if implemented in real life by the cab drivers who have already earned reputation as crabby cabbies.
Another training programme was conducted on 26th August to teach cabbies the basic life saving skills so that they can act in emergencies if there is any sudden deterioration of health of a passenger. Eminent doctors provided the first aid training programme to 5000 cabbies of our city at Netaji Indoor Stadium. Certificates were issued to the cab drivers after the training.
Non-refusal taxis on the anvil
To mitigate the woeful conditions of the commuters, West Bengal Government plans to introduce a fresh fleet of 2000 “no refusal” taxis. Like the “never say die” attitude of the Aussies, these taxi drivers will nurture “never say no” mind-set. Be it odd hours or a strike or hostile weather they will never leave the passengers in dreadful situations.
"This is part of our aim to give a new, modern look to the city. The drivers would be required to behave courteously and politely so that tourists go back with a better impression about the city," said Transport Minister Madan Mitra.
To go with the preferred colour scheme of the state government, the taxis will be painted white and blue. These sleek models of four wheelers will provide ample luggage space, thus amplifying passenger’s comfort. Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation and tracking devices will be installed in these BS IV-compliant cars which will make women feel safer and allow passengers to take the shortest route of their choice. Passengers can avail both AC and Non AC taxis. The words “No Refusal” will be imprinted in bold on the taxis.
The permits will be issued to only those giving an undertaking in a non-judicial stamp paper that they will never refuse a passenger, even during rallies or shutdowns.