On October 17 last year, India’s first centre to impart driving skills under the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) began its operations at Aphaur village in Saran district of Bihar. In January, the centre admitted 120 students in its first batch and their training was completed a month later. The Indian Express made a site visit at the end of May and met more than half-a-dozen students from this batch, most of whom said that they — and a number of their batchmates — are not only waiting for jobs, but also for their final exam results and the course certificate from the NSDC.
According to Pankaj Kumar, deputy general manager (operations) with Rise India Skills Solutions Private Limited, a Mumbai-based company that had opened this driving skill training centre in collaboration with the NSDC, the assessment was done soon after the training for the first batch was over, but certificates from NSDC are awaited. “Once they arrive we will hand over the same to the students,” he said. On the issues relating to job placements, he said that most of the students who have passed from this driving skill centre have not got any jobs because they do not have commercial driving licences “We have tried to help them in obtaining the commercial licences. Around 40 students of the first batch have applied for it, but are yet to get it,” he said.
The NSDC did not respond to the queries of The Indian Express. Queries sent to the Ministry of Skill Development also went unanswered.
Ola Cabs is one of the companies that came for job placements at this training centre in Saran, which is one among a total of 4,871 skill centres operational across the country. This school was opened under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) under which accredited and affiliated training providers are allowed to impart skill training through their centres in collaboration with the NSDC. A total outlay of Rs 1,500 crore was approved for PMKVY by the Union Cabinet in 2015-16 and Rs 12,000 crore for 2016-2020, to impart skill training to one crore people over the four year time period. Till March 16, 2017, Rs 2,885 crore had been transferred to NSDC for implementation of PMKVY.
“One can apply for commercial learner licence only when his or her permanent private licence is one year old. Once the commercial learner licence is obtained, it can be made permanent after one month … In first batch too, even we were not aware of the complete process, so we left it to the students that you should get licences made for yourself. When they went to apply, we understood the various problems the children are facing … Because of this lack of licence, my 40 Ola placements are completely entangled. If they get it today, they will get a job tomorrow morning. The vehicles are just lying there. The drivers have to come,” Pankaj Kumar told The Indian Express.
Kumar also gave the example of Super Travel Agency, a Patna-based company, which wanted five drivers from driving school in April this year. He said his students could not join as the commercial driving licence was not available with them for this job that was in the salary slab of Rs 14-16 thousand per month.
However, according to students, there are more complications. Rise India, which is currently running this driving school, decided to call an official from District Transport Office (DTO) to ease the process of getting commercial licences. A first-batch student confirmed The Indian Express that an official from DTO came to collect the money that was necessary to make commercial licence. He said that the official took Rs 3,600 per head to make the permanent commercial licence. “In Bihar, the fees of making a learner commercial licence is Rs 290 and permanent commercial licence is Rs 1,220. Therefore, the total amount comes to Rs 1,510 (Rs 290 plus Rs 1,220). I went to the DTO and completed my process there. I have got the commercial learner licence. I will get my final commercial licence soon” the student said.
When asked why the students were then asked to pay Rs 3,600, Kumar said: “The licence fee in Bihar was raised on February 13 and the students were charged around Rs 4,000-5,000 per head when they went to apply for the licence, we only helped them to get their licences at a standard lower cost. The commercial driving licence is students’ property and he has to pay for the same, we only helped them in order to save their time and money.”
Regarding placements, the students said that there is no coherent policy. For example, on May 17, around 10:30 am, the students claimed that the driving school representatives called them and told them that companies like Ola Cabs, Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors are coming for placements on that day. Many students were not able to go for this immediate meeting. A first-batch student, who belongs to a village in Panapur block of Saran district, said that he could not go as he had his BSc final year exam that day at 3 PM. Another first-batch student said that he went to the driving school, but apart from Ola, no other company had turned up.
When asked why the students were not informed a day or two before about this May 17 interview, Kumar said: “All students were informed about the visit of Ola and Maruti, Tata Motors was not mentioned. Students who had reasons for not coming were informed that their interviews would be conducted at a later date.”
Before the May 17 placement interview, some students said that they were offered jobs by people running their cars for Ola. A student, who claimed to have been offered a monthly salary of Rs 9,000 for becoming an Ola driver, turned down the offer. When asked about such rejections, Kumar said that Ola operators offer a base salary of Rs 9,000, then there is a variable amount of around Rs 4,000-5,000 per month based on the rides taken by the driver.
In response to specific questions regarding such placements, an Ola spokesperson told The Indian Express: “Our association with NSDC and other skilling partners is aimed at positively impacting livelihoods of hundreds and thousands of driver entrepreneurs who are getting skilled at the training centres like the one in Chapra. We are committed to on-boarding skilled driver-partners as micro entrepreneurs and empowering them with access to capital, insurance, loans – for easy car ownership and maintenance; through our various partnerships with banks, NBFCs and other players in the ecosystem.”
Tata Motors and Maruti Suzuki did not respond to the questions sent by the newspaper on the placement exercise.
Three students, two of them based in Siwan district, said that at the time of admission, the driving school told them that Shriram Finance would provide them loans to purchase private vehicles — that can be used for commercial purposes — at easy interest rates and with a down payment of just
Rs 25,000. Subsequently, they claimed that when the course was about to get over, the person in charge of the driving school’s first-batch told them that the loan cannot be arranged. Kumar, however, refuted this and told said: “No such promise was made by Rise India, only Ola orientation was done, as discussed with you, we are trying to initiate Mudra loans for interested students, but it depends on the bankers, we can only help them apply.”
Shriram Finance did not respond to the queries sent by The Indian Express.