In this second part of the JK Tyre Happiness Truck series, Rajesh Rajgor puts down the experience of conducting activities in the industrial belts of Baddi, Nalagarh and Darlaghat, strategically located in the lap of the Sivalik Hills of Solan in Himachal Pradesh
The journey had begun. We were geared for our first activity at Baddi, an industrial town and a city council in the south-western Solan district of Himachal Pradesh. Put up at a hotel, not far away from the Baddi Union office, the previous night, we were greeted by Ritesh Kanungo of JK Tyre and the Lumax duo of Rajesh Bhandari and Sahil Chhabra. As we entered the bustling hall of the union office on the ground floor, we saw drivers sitting in large numbers facing a stage, little higher than their own seating position. The person addressing the audience was Ram Prakash, Director, The Doon Block Congress Committee, and President, Baddi Union. He was reading out the truck numbers and routes which were to be assigned to the drivers. In what is known as the ‘boli’ in local parlance, anybody willing to ply on a particular route was assigned the load at prefixed government rates. We interrupted them and told them about our agenda to conduct activities and games for the drivers.
Baddi-Nalagarh: Asia’s largest truck union
Outside the hall, our colourful truck had parked itself alongside the main entry point of Baddi Union, which is considered as Asia’s largest pharmaceutical centre. Baddi is home to over 2,000 companies ranging from engineering, packaging, electrical equipment, food processing and textile units which have established manufacturing plants and research and development hubs in the town. As expected, the JK Tyre Happiness Truck supported by Lumax as our lighting partner, drew a large crowd, in particular the drivers who were in that area. Our crew quickly erected a canopy and addressed the gathering about the campaign and the agenda. The camera crew, consisting of four members, were split into two groups. While one covered the outside activities, the second team shot the ‘boli’ proceedings happening in the hall.
With an increasing number of locals gathering around us, I, Ritesh and Sahil stood below the canopy from where I informed the drivers about how we would spend the next hour with them to sensitize them about tyre safety measures and the importance of proper lighting while also engaging in some ‘fun’ activities to acknowledge their role in keeping the economy of the nation in constant motion. Ritesh provided insights about tyres and how it was important for any driver to select the right tyres as per the vehicle type and use. He stressed upon critical factors to be considered for the selection of any tyre, including aspects like speed and sustained operations, tyre size and rim profile for various roads and terrain, and design requirements based on the application. The drivers took active interest in asking questions related to tyre pressure, service and maintenance.
Sahil too had a great time elaborating on the variants of lights he had brought for display. He was successful in making the interested drivers understand that the LED lights are not only easy to install but also provide 25-30% longer life than the normal halogen ones. Despite their high-quality lighting capabilities, the Lumax LED lights consume less power and help save fuel consumption. As mentioned in the first article, this campaign was not aimed at selling brands but was positioned to sensitise truck drivers with information that can help the entire community. As a few more truck drivers gathered, our entertainment specialist, Yogesh, got everyone charged up with his natural engaging tricks, including passing the ring, bursting balloons and collecting the maximum numbers of straws thrown in the air.
As the lunch hour drew closer, we were cajoled by some of the drivers to try some local cuisine. And therefore we relished a simple but wonderful meal of ‘kadhi chawal’ (yogurt curry with rice) and ‘rajma chawal’ (kidney beans with rice), which are quintessentially North Indian delicacies. The food was served by Yogendra Kaushik who manages the Chandigarh Special Food outlet with a Maruti Suzuki EECO. Post lunch we moved to the nearby Nalagarh Truck Union, which boasts of many production units for leather, steel, chemicals, thread mills and breweries. Together with Baddi, the union claims to have a registered roster of about 15,000 truckers.
Nalagarh: Bonding time
The path to the union office here was narrow and we had permission to wrap up our programme within half an hour. Therefore, without wasting any time, we parked our truck right in front of the narrow gate. As had happened at Baddi, a lot of drivers flocked to our truck, curious about why we were there. Quickly the canopy was erected and after my formal introduction, Sahil and Ritesh took over. We ensured that the truckers thoroughly enjoyed the activities we conducted and made the most of the 30 minutes allotted to us. What I realised in the course of our interactions is that the truckers’ community is very helpful to one another. Most of these drivers own one or two trucks and are not on the rolls like working professionals. Their compensation packages are hardly tempting. We tried to spread a bit of good cheer and happiness by rewarding the winners and also giving out gifts of T-shirts, caps and other goodies.
Darlaghat: A scenic wonder
Given the brevity of time, we wrapped up the activities within the stipulated period and headed for Darlaghat, around three hours from Nalagarh. As the truck hit its customary speed, a gentle breeze caressed us inside the cabin, giving us respite from what was otherwise a very hot day. It was late evening and the oncoming vehicles with their headlights gave the road a snaky and shiny appearance. We managed to reach the hotel by around 10 pm. What came as a surprise was that despite being on the road for more than three days, we were hardly fatigued. In fact, all of us were excited by the reception we were getting for the initiative and looked forward to many more interactions at our scheduled destinations.
The next morning, the Darlaghat Union activity was scheduled at 11 am and so we had a couple of hours extra to prepare ourselves for the day. The activity area was a fitting tribute to one of our mission’s mantras to bring the truck to a picturesque location. Everywhere we looked around there were rolling hills and of course a lot of trucks. This was a perfect ‘frame’ for our video crew to unleash its ‘drone’ camera. The Director and the rest of the team were pleased with the aerial shots or the strafing sideway movements that revealed a different perspective of the landscape. The truckers of Darlaghat were visibly excited about the presence of the camera crew and our canopy. They sensed this was different than the usual marketing gimmicks or free medical camps they attended. Soon our proceedings began and we were astonished by the excitement this particular lot showed.
The difference between the energy levels and keenness of these drivers from the ones we met at Baddi-Nalagarh was also striking because the former ones had returned to the hub after a previous night’s journey and were in no rush to go out any time soon. The Darlaghat Union premise was large enough to have proper seating as well as resting areas for drivers. This was perhaps for the first time we saw a TV set in a driver’s waiting lounge. Drivers who had returned from their journeys were enjoying the entertainment that this facility provided. Soon, we were taken to a swanky, neatly painted building of the Baghal Land Loser’s Transport Cooperative Society Ltd. This time we were accompanied by Varun Bajaj, the local JK Tyre representative and Sahil from Lumax. Here, we had the immense pleasure of meeting the president of the union, Balak Ramji, who provided us insights into the operation of the union and the measures they take for easing the life of the truck drivers. He was so pleased by our initiative that he readily agreed and arranged for a grand gathering of the truckers. The winners of the activities were facilitated by him, who wished us all the good luck in our activities scheduled ahead. Having successfully conducted all our scheduled activities at Baddi, Nalagarh and Darlaghat we were elated. Despite the physical strain of being on the road now showing up on my face, I was delighted with the thought of ticking off one task after another. With the hope of having a steaming cup of tea soon, I was ready for the next halt. So stay tuned for our account of Bamana, Mandi and Leh.