Soon, 170-odd porters at the Pune railway station will be able to converse in English with foreigners and those who can’t talk in Marathi or Hindi. The porters, or coolies, will be trained in the basics of spoken English by experience trainers at an open classroom on Platform No. 1. The classes have already started and are held when the platform is “not too crowded”.
The initiative has been taken by the Suryadatta Group of Institutes to help the porters, who carry the luggage of passengers for a living, to cope with the changing times. The two-month course will be conducted in batches as per the convenience of the porters who will have to attend the classes five days a week. The porters have been divided into groups of 10 and each will be trained by a professor and an MBA student from the institute.
“As the city has grown, the number of passengers who don’t understand Hindi or Marathi has also gone up. The first ones to welcome them to the city are the porters. We thought if the porters could be trained in spoken English, it will…improve the image of the city,” said Dr Sanjay Chordia, chairman of the Suryadatta Group.
He said the porters would be taught to frame sentences that would help them carry out transactions with the passengers, adding that they could also share their newly-acquired knowledge with their family members.
Porters have welcomed the initiative and said they were enthusiastic about learning the language.
Ashok Kharpude, a porter, said the course would prove helpful to him and other fellow porters.
“At Pune station, we have about 175 porters at present. Most of them are young and are also fairly educated. A majority of the old lot were uneducated and have either retired or will soon do. The spoken English course will certainly benefit these youngsters as they are willing to learn and also already know a little bit of English. They understand the language, only need to learn to speak,” said Kharpude.
Another porter said learning the language would boost their self-confidence. “I am not sure if I will be able to speak fluently. But even if I could speak a few sentences correctly or understand what the customer is saying, it will be a big achievement,” he said.
Professor N C Sethia, who will be among those conducting the training, said they had formed different groups based on the level of education of the porters. “There are a few of them who are totally uneducated, others have cleared Class X or XII. We will segregate those who are totally uneducated and can’t read and write in Marathi or Hindi, and will hold classes for them separately. Those who are educated and also know English to some extent will find it easy to follow the instructions and will be trained separately,” said Sethia.