Gone are the buggy days | Daily News

Gone are the buggy days

When we emerge from mother’s body we come not only with life but also with capabilities may be with a flair for something or more or a cleverness of some form. It is to develop those abilities that we learn in schools on wishful disciplines. Education is incomplete without a vocational training. Practical knowledge and experience is an absolute necessity for a person to become a practician or a practitioner. The maxim, ‘Little education is dangerous’ is a wisecrack known to all of us and often talked of when somebody fails to perform to required standards.

One must become dexterous and conscientious once theoretical and practical lessons are completed and show proof of competency before an examiner or a panel of them to obtain certification as a qualified or a competent individual on a respective discipline.

This applies to all people and all professions. Climbing coconut trees for plucking and tapping is a profession. If a coconut plucker cum tapper is not skillful he will fall to death halfway while climbing up or down or when moving from the peak of a tree to another on ropes. Likewise, if a person is not an experienced (skill or knowledge gained by practicing) driver, he will crash, kill, devastate and explode himself. The aforesaid cliché has been declared by the wise to predict this outcome owing to this inadequacy, the inadequacy of the know-how and the expertise of any profession to have a claim for professionalism, to say in other words.

In an era eight decades ago, when our principal mode of transport was the buggy cart pulled by a bull and the dual purpose single-bullock and the double-bullock carts were hauled on gravel paths and subsequently on few macadamized roads in villages gradually turning in to townships, driver training in this country started in a small scale by few individuals who owned discarded cars sold to them by the British who monopolized in the importation of brand new cars exclusively for their use.

Disciplined elderly people

In those former times, the owner - father taught the son to drive otherwise he was sent to be trained by an experienced person in the village, not the daughter, because, unlike today, the females were barred as religions, cultures, customs and traditions did not permit their pursuance of such activities on the belief that those harmed their modesty which our ancestors and our elders continuously treasured as precious than their lives. That was a belief come to pass from primordial times sadly overlooked by the present day gyna sapiens of Sri Lanka.

The people to whom their sons were referred to were well disciplined elderly people reputed as master drivers. They were tough and tenacious. The trainees who failed to toe the line were dealt with instantaneously and had to bear the pains of knocks on the head or squeezed ears at every mistake or even a dressing down sometimes in vituperative language had to be listened to.

These punishments were not intended to harass them but to insist on them to be attentive to the lessons. Those rigorous lessons mixed with strict discipline made the youth of a by-gone era to be on their toes as long as they were at the wheels. The ‘trainer’ became the ‘guru’ (teacher) and the ‘trainee’ became the ‘gola’ (pupil). The ‘guru’ and ‘gola’ combination went on honourably for several generations. The ‘trainee’ underwent training with due respects to the ‘trainer’. The ‘trainer’ offered a proper course of training to the humble and obedient trainee to gain knowledge and experience, to pass the examination on merits, find employment as a professional, to be useful to the society and do well in life.

As time went on, with the commencement of large and vast development programmes, rapid urbanization, industrialization and modernization of the country when driving of vehicles and operation of machines became a necessity, the demand for drivers and operators for engagement in industries arose. At his stage, ‘driver training’ became a business for those who were competent in the trade. So, they opened their own training centres but, they couldn’t proceed on a straight forward journey owing to an unexpected bottleneck.

The examiners of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles solicited gratifications to certify trainees as competent drivers. As such, they had no alternative but, to continue reluctantly in connivance with them. With the passage of time, it became a well known secret, a practice descending from several generations and even at this juncture this corrupt practice is in operation about which the attention of the government is also being drawn at present.

The training given to the ‘Learners’ by the so-called instructors who identify themselves also as ‘Learners’ is a cheap one negotiated by coming in to contact and entering in to verbal contracts with prospective trainees in a foxy way offering incredible easy payment terms with an assurance of quick training with no inconveniences to undergo.

Caught in their razzmatazz, after a training given during few hours in a few days and after a test ride with the so-called Examiners of the Department of Registrar of Motor Vehicles, the trainees get the certificates of competence from ‘The Learners’ and from then onwards, the learners become drivers and wise guys on the road. Are these people teachers of an up and coming generation or are they arch-enemies? It is left to the authorities concerned to decide whether going for a ride in the outer circular road at Kadawata for a few hours during a few days is sufficient training and experience for a beginner to drive on a highway or even in the backyard of a house.

Like ‘The Learners’, next came in the yesteryear, the Private Security Services and recently, the School Bus Services run by individuals. Initially, vans were hired by groups of parents to send their children to schools as they found their children suffered great inconveniences when travelling in public and private buses. This system too, like ‘The Learners’ and the Security Services spread in the length and breadth of the country and became a brisk business. When time went on complaints began to pour in about wrong doings by ‘The Learners’, mismanagement and malpractices in the security services and about un-roadworthy vehicles transporting children and, molesting and raping of children by school bus drivers.

Driver training schools

The state intervened in response to complaints against them and made it compulsory for them to get registered with the relevant authorities. The Private Security Services are covered by the Wages Boards Ordinance from several decades ago. ‘The Learners’ and the School Bus Services are not regulated hence those who depend on them are inhumanly deprived of services expected of them in return for an agreed payment. “The Learners” do not give a proper training. The school buses are not regular in service. Whilst the passed out drivers doesn’t know even to park a vehicle on the correct side, the schoolchildren are compelled to find alternative means of transport owing to unexpected absence of buses transporting them. These are two major shortcomings among the many to describe if space is available here. The state therefore must regulate these two organizations forthwith.

The Sri Lanka Transport Board has a Driver Training School. It is open to all but, patronization is less because ‘The Learners’ who dominate in the field tower over the Training School in connivance with the trainers of the Sri Lanka Transport Board. Their interference has prevented a majority from joining the Driver Training School of the Board which awards a certificate of competence recognized the world over.

When this vexed question was discussed at length by the media, specially the Daily News in the lead in the past and, during the previous regime too, there was a plan to establish a ‘Driver Training Institute’ with Japanese aid. It did not materialize as the people rejected that government and elected this government in 2015.

Since we gained independence and began to rule our country by ourselves we had the ugliest habit of discontinuing what a previous regime failed to complete and the elected governments to do what they preferred under their policies. But, fifty two years after, we saw a change in the year 2000. The United National Party before 2005 had in its plans inter alia to develop the southern province creating an airport at Weerawila and a harbour at Hambantota. It couldn’t do it as it was rejected by the people in 2005. But, the next government in 2005 did not discard that plan. It implemented it with changes like taking the airport from Weerawila to Mattala giving a hearing to the people. Though Mattala Air port and Hambantota harbour were created, it lost its power in 2015 before it could build up other facilities needed around the airport and the harbour. When the United National Party came to power in 2015 in amalgamation with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, it did not discontinue it. It’s true that it took some time for it to study the plans that existed, financial involvements et cetera in detail, make necessary amendments and then, to continue. They have begun work now. This is actually a very great change in Sri Lankan politics and this is the change the people wanted. This is a praiseworthy move.

In the same manner, the existing government must think about establishing a ‘Driver Training Institute’ to train and pass out drivers replacing the examiners of the R.M.V. who are an untrustworthy venal community. “The Learners” can continue to train the ‘learners’ but, the ‘learners’ must pass a test at the DTI to obtain the Certificate of Competence. If they fail at the trials at the DTI they must undergo training at the DTI to qualify for a certificate of Competence. In such instances, they will have to get enrolled in the DTI to follow its course of training.

Road rules

When mannerly people are passed out from the DTI with an experience in driving, knowledge in motor mechanism, road rules, the etiquette and so forth, we will have a gentle class of drivers day by day to replace the road hogs. The present day drivers do not have a knowledge to attend to running repairs. They do not have a tool to replace a punctured tyre by the spare wheel. They go begging for tools from garages to tyre shops and people when broken down with stranded passengers. Are they drivers?

The DTI must be established towards Namunukula in the hill country for training to be given on roads there. Training given in the level country has proved fruitless. Intake must be in batches giving full board in the hostel of the DTI. It’s in the mid and up country roads the drivers have to ascend and descend on narrow paths negotiating precipitous bends, not in the level country. These are the roads that made the drivers there to be cautious, patient, careful and cooperative while in motion. The care they take when they go past other vehicles and the observance of road rules until they reach their destinations safely are exemplary and praiseworthy. And, the hair-raising art of negotiating hairpin bends cautiously displaying the mindfulness of a driver’s responsibility on roads having precipices on both sides of the roads is exciting to watch. Seldom an accident occur in the hill side.

But, in the hazard free level country with more than sufficient spacious roads built to ultra modern specifications under space age technologies it’s havoc we witness all over the country day in and day out causing indignation and disgust. The roads in the level country have become tracks for motor racing and speed contesting by the Tempter’s victims.

These days, practically every day in the morning, in the forenoon, in the afternoon, in the evening and at night we read in the print media, hear in radio broadcasts and view and hear in telecasts endless reports on horrific incidents of vehicle collisions all over the country.

Media institutions

I feel the media institutions in our country are overburdened with news and views of these horrendous incidents that they appear to be suffering from a shortage of space in their broadsheets to publish and time for the broadcasters and telecasters to narrate their tales and tales of woe of the victims.

If you observe you will hear and see lengthy reports read one after the other at a stretch in televisions in the same breath in an accelerated speed against time, showing pictures of crashed and crushed vehicles of different shapes and sizes and horrific scenes of the profusely bleeding and critically injured, the sinking and the dead. When all these news are bombarded on us daily via these modes in this manner about this kind of terrorism led by the Grim Reaper, we, the flabbergasted citizens of Sri Lanka have become cataplectic listening to Cliffhangers after cliffhangers.

It appears that liberalization under the unity government for good governance has exceeded limits that those who live irresponsible and immoral lives have mistaken liberty to behave with undue freedom. The sequence of occurring accidents are so frequent, tragic and mournful, safety of people on road is at stake. The pedestrians on tenterhooks are of the view that this lamentable situation must be brought under control forthwith and, egg on the government to do so. 


 

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