Take 5: ‘I can’t read, have no trouble driving. I use voice search, know all road signs’https://indianexpress.com/article/india/rajasthan-high-court-illiterate-drivers-harikishan-saini-5771523/

Take 5: ‘I can’t read, have no trouble driving. I use voice search, know all road signs’

Calling “illiterate” drivers “virtually a menace”, the Rajasthan High Court recently told the state to withdraw driving licences to those “unable to read, write”. Harikishan Saini, 47, works as a driver with a travel agency in Jaipur.

“Many of us poor, couldn’t study”

Since when have you been driving?

I have been driving since 1996. So 23 years in all. I am originally from Sikrai village in Dausa district. I was the fourth among 10 siblings and we didn’t have enough money to go to school. So all of us worked in the fields. But during those days, children in villages wouldn’t let go of any opportunity to learn driving. I first learned to drive a tractor and when I was about 20, I began driving a jeep near my village to earn some money. Gradually, it became my profession as that was the easiest thing for me to do.

Has the lack of schooling been a problem while driving?

No. Since I work with a travel agency, I am out for tours almost every day, driving cars and SUVs. I have never had trouble reading road signs and following traffic rules simply because I have been driving for so long. I have gone to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, states where signboards are written in regional languages, but never had to face any problems.

How do you find your way?

I usually use voice search to find my way around. At times, I ask passengers to use Google Maps. As for road signs, by now, I am familiar with all of them.

Have you heard about the HC seeking withdrawal of licences to those who can’t read and write?

I didn’t know. But how can they do that? My guess is around 35% of the drivers are illiterate. Many of them come from poor families, and may have never had the opportunity to go to school. If someone has to stop driving suddenly, what will he do?

What do your children do?

I have three children. My daughter is married, my younger one is in school, and my elder son is doing his BA. I want him to sit for some competitive examination. I will be happy if they manage to get a government job. I am illiterate and didn’t have any choice but to take up this profession. I don’t want that for my children.

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