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Driver’s seat

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Laxman Humagain in Himal Khabarpatrika, 27 October

I have been driving a car for a private company now for 15 years. Many like me end up doing this job because they come from low income families or couldn’t get a higher education. Many are from the districts adjacent to Kathmandu, and have got their jobs through connections.

Drivers have no illusions about their job, and are aware of what is expected of them: taking the sir or madam to their destinations, parking the vehicle safely and make sure they are visible and ready when they come out.

The most sought after job for drivers is for diplomatic offices. Drivers of cars with blue CD plates feel they are a different class by themselves and do not hob-nob with us. Drivers of government vehicles are more chatty, and usually complain about working conditions. But by and large, all drivers grumble about low salary, long working hours, lack of overtime, holidays or meal allowances. A driver of a school principal says he has to open the door for him, and has to stand outside the car while he is in a meeting.

I once saw a new driver with a vehicle I had seen often. He said the old driver had quit. “I am also leaving soon to drive a bus,” he said. The drivers thought because the employer was a famous, respected person who had written books, they would be treated well. Apparently the public persona of a person does not tally with the way they treat and value their drivers.

But not all employers are like that, there are many who treat their drivers with respect. One boss runs his company with his son and daughter and have helped with the education of the driver’s son and helped send him abroad. When it’s late, they usually drive the car themselves. Another boss got a driver’s wife a job and helped them to build a house on the Ring Road.

If employers didn’t take their drivers for granted and looked after them, it may actually make their lives smoother.

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