The Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University (YCMOU), in collaboration with Canada-based Commonwealth of Learning, has launched a unique graduation programme, Yash Sankalp (BA in Road Transport), for educating drivers in road safety and imparting them essential skills in vehicle maintenance. The programme was inaugurated by Sir John Daniel, President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning in the presence of Krishna Kumar, Vice-Chancellor of YCMOU; R Sreedhar, Director, Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) – a Asia branch of the Commonwealth of Learning; Anuradha Deshmukh, Director, Centre for Collaborations and Special Initiatives; L P Khade, Deputy Transport Commissioner; B G Shekhar, Deputy Commissioner of Police – Traffic & Enforcement (Mumbai), Sanjay Sasane, Deputy Regional Transport Officer, Nasik and Kader Khan, Indian film actor.
Krishna Kumar said that the BA programme is meant for empowering auto rickshaw and taxi drivers by educating them. Hence, the fee for the preparatory course for the main degree programme has been kept very low at
र300. Sir Daniel, emphasising on the importance of good drivers, recounted an incident: he had lost his way to his hotel on a recent visit to Bangalore but an auto rickshaw driver was very helpful – he took care of him and took him back safely to his hotel. Sir Daniel was also quite happy that community radio, which has been an important tool in SEMCA’s agenda of promoting education and training, was being used extensively for the delivery of the course. He was hopeful that once it was successful in India, the Yash Sankalp model could successfully be adapted in other countries in Asia and elsewhere.
Kadar Khan stressed on providing training in road safety to drivers and said that he would be happy to lend his voice to the documentaries produced by the YCMOU.
Anuradha Deshmukh emphasised that the course was the product of a cooperative effort between many groups and professionals – academicians, instructional designers, representatives of the transport department, the taxi & auto rickshaw unions, taxi & auto rickshaw drivers, and trainers & proprietors of motor driving schools. Aspiring public transport drivers in Maharashtra till now needed to have cleared their standard eight in school to be eligible for the driving course, a requirement which prevented many from taking up the profession. However, even those who haven’t cleared the eighth standard are eligible to enrol for the BA course if they clear the six month preparatory course of Yash Sankalp. According to a recent resolution of Maharashtra government, completing the preparatory course and the first year diploma of Yash Sankalp will be considered equivalent to passing the Higher Secondary.
Deshmukh opined that the course is very relevant today since the transportation sector is facing a severe crunch of drivers trained in road safety. What is needed is a system on a national scale which can impart suitable education, training in road safety and soft skills to drivers. Yash Sankalp aims to improve interpersonal communication and other behavioural skills in drivers, and create a more mature, socially responsible and sensitive workforce in the road transportation sector. The course will also have other benefits for drivers as they may qualify for soft loans for setting up transport business and may be able to get jobs as middle-level executives in the automobile industry or as stage planners, data collectors and booking agents for goods and passenger carrier services.
R Sreedhar said that the idea for including community radios as a part of the course came from the fact that almost all the auto and taxi drivers have a cell phone on which they listen to music, news and other programmes. It was decided to use this medium to give them some knowledge and training in road safety. He informed that 16 community radio stations in Maharashtra would broadcast radio programmes on road safety as a part of the course. Motor driving schools, RTO offices and private training institutes will serve as study centres, and will handle student registration, distribution of study material, maintain records, organise tests, assignments, and contact sessions by inviting expert speakers.