THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Autorickshaw drivers often make news for all the wrong reasons, like fleecing passengers or for misbehaviour. However, the 70 autorickshaw drivers operating from the Neyyattinkara bus station junction have set an example in care, of both fellow humans and nature. Every day, they provide food and water for free to the needy. They have also started a plant nursery, and are cultivating vegetables and fruits in a space close to the autorickshaw stand.
“The idea of developing a green space took shape when we were struggling to get rides after the Covid pandemic broke out in 2020,” says Sugunan S, a senior driver.
Now, anyone who gets down at the Neyyattinkara bus station would first notice an array of plants near the autorickshaws lined up there. The second ‘green space’ is enriched with vegetable plants like spinach, ladies finger, red and green chilli and moringa, and fruit trees like banana, jackfruit and guava. Four of the five banana trees have already borne fruit, with the other one ready for harvest. The autorickshaw drivers tend to all of those when they are free. Recognising their earnestness, the Neyyattinkara municipality too lent its support by providing space to nurture the plants.
“Fortunately, all the drivers have been cooperative with the idea. There is no politics here. Though we belong to various political parties and religions, we are united when it comes to helping people. And we don’t charge exorbitant rates... we go by the meter reading,” Sugunan points out. The drivers use the earnings from farming to facilitate the distribution of rice gruel (kanji) and water. “We get additional revenue from the sale of bananas and vegetables here in the evenings,” he says.
The initiative has also earned the group an award from the Neyyattinkara Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi. But many drivers are reluctant to let themselves be photographed as they see the activity as a part of their lives now, and not as a “heavenly gesture”.
“We don’t want any credit for this. We have started the initiative for the people. We will sell vegetables and fruits and continue to provide free food and water to the people,” says Jayan V, another autorickshaw driver. Manchathala Suresh, a municipal councillor and the president of the Neyyattinkara Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi, says the trade body gave the award as it is the first such initiative from a group of autorickshaw drivers in the state.