“They’re beasts when it comes to performance,” said Vishal Agarwal, Head of Express Vertical at Express Roadways.
To whom was he referring to?
The Mewati drivers, of course.
Despite all the negative vibes about hiring Mewati drivers in the trucking segment, it is an unadulterated truth that there is no match for Mewati drivers.
Yes, they are beasts.
Express operators love them purely out of self-interest. Speedy delivery is their mantra. No driver from the usual truck driver nurseries of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Rajasthan, and Punjab/Haryana can match the Mewatis in sheer endurance: speed, and safe delivery in a time-bound manner.
Of course, there are many negatives about them. Yet, it would not be easy to single out fleet owners who don’t have these Muslim drivers from the Haryana-Rajasthan border mohalla.
There was a time when Delhi-based Instant Transport Solutions (ITS) had 90% of its saratis for its 1,400 containerized vehicles from Mewati. “True,” admits the charming banker-turned-transporter Jasveer Singh. Today, the count is 60%.
One favorable aspect of Mewati, or for that matter, the Muslim truck drivers, is their abstinence from the alcohol consumption. “They don’t drink. Therefore, a big plus from cargo and vehicle safety,” concedes an Ahmedabad-based fleet owner who vouchsafes for Mewatis.
That is not 100% true, points out another fleet owner. His experience showcased that the young breed of Mewati drivers enjoys and indulges in alcohol. Poof!
Another plus point in Mewati drivers’ favor is their attendance. Unlike their Hindu driver brethren, Muslim drivers will go missing during Ramzan and Bakri Id. Hindu drivers will vanish for Holi, Diwali, and the harvest season, pushing fleet owners into dire straits. Long stretch of absence from duty for Hindu drivers.
Fleet-owning transporters will be at their wit’s end during the harvest season when their vehicles will be idling in the parking yard, and they will be compelled to contract out both vehicles and drivers during that critical period. Hiring drivers to steer one’s idling vehicles is next to impossible. Don’t believe it? Ask fleet owners anywhere in the country, barring the South.
Not that Muslim drivers don’t own a piece of land to sow and harvest. I visited the Mewati area multiple times to meet my contacts which drive and cultivate grain and vegetables on vast stretches of land.
Mewati drivers prefer returning home regularly. Put differently, they opt to work for fleet owners whose vehicles regularly visit the north, particularly the National Capital Region. After all, Mewati falls in that sphere.
The size of Mewati drivers in Indian trucking is humungous. Next time you travel on highways, the chances of missing Mewati dhabas are negligible. After all, it makes business sense to cater to their unique food needs. (Mutton is a daily necessity.) Of course, they are not as many as the Punjabi, Haryanvi, Rajasthani, or Vishnu dhabas that cater to all — mostly vegetarian items to truck drivers exclusively.
Fleet owners need to be diligent and diplomatic in dealing with Mewati drivers. Otherwise, you are inviting trouble. There were cases in the past of many transporters blacklisting Mewati drivers. Does it work? Doubtful. Fleet owners cannot be so choosy. Pure demand-supply interplay.
Reconciliation is challenging if there is a dispute over payment with Mewati drivers. Differences over the settlement of trips are inevitable in the trucking business. First, they will park the vehicle in their Muslim-dominated locality. Even the police will think twice before stepping inside the mohallas. A fear psychosis, no doubt.
Retrieval of such “impounded” vehicles with or without load needs the blessings of the local imams. Either my way or highway will be the approach. A tough nut to crack.
Fleet owners have surrendered to retrieve their vehicles, swallowing whatever financial loss in the bargain. Dhanda to karna hai na? A temporary loss and not all Mewati drivers are trouble-makers.
Such fracas does not lead to total distancing with Mewati drivers. Of course, there is a concerted move to reduce their strength and thus bring down business risk. Pure business dynamics. Risk mitigation.
As I bump into a Mewati owner-cum-driver at a trucker dhaba in Rajkot, Gujarat, he affirms that every house in Mewat sends at least three drivers, if not more. It is said that every home in Punjab has a representative in the Indian Armed Forces. “Now, we send our children to school, college. We never had that privilege. So, the supply from Mewat will come down. Once educated, who wants to drive a truck?” he asks.
The final word comes from Manish Agarwal of Ahmedabad.: “Their zest for work is incredible. In my decade-long experience with them, their integrity and honesty is several notches above drivers from other areas,” adds. At least 40 percent over others, says he.
One major reason Manish and Vishal Agarwal go ga-ga over Mewati drivers is kaam se matlab hai thrust. You can set a target and sleep in peace that they will deliver. What more would a businessman demand?
Perhaps the larger family size of Mewati drivers could be the trigger for their “beastly” performance. More mouths to feed. Unless you work hard and make more money, survival becomes challenging. Simple logic. Or survival instinct. Period.
For every single fleet owner vetoing Mewati driver, there is an equal opposite member of the same trucking tribe, betting on these “beasts.” Strange? Not really.