Mumbai: The truck drivers in India have always kept the wheels of the economy moving but throughout the pandemic they went beyond the call of duty to ensure sustenance of life, supplying essentials, medicines, and oxygen. In order to shine the spotlight on them, TV9 Network in partnership with Shriram Transport Finance Company (STFC) Ltd. and Apollo Hospitals announced ‘Highway Heroes’ felicitating truck drivers who stood rock solid through the course of COVID-19.
While the TV9 campaign was focused on vaccinating truck drivers across the country, the initiative received immense positive responses from the industry as they recognized the efforts of seven unsung Highway Heroes at an event in Delhi. The grand celebration saw several stalwarts of the transportation and medical industry discuss key issues, with a special focus towards celebrating these Highway Heroes who have immensely contributed towards the growth of the transportation industry.
Kick-started in October’21, the initiative traveled to Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Delhi NCR to set up free medical check-up camps for truck drivers across the country. The camp that lasted four days in each city held its last edition in Delhi NCR.
Key stakeholders and decision-makers from the industry graced the event who along with expressing their gratitude also discussed various aspects that truckers had to face on a daily basis. From narrating stories of how they braved the pandemic to ensure that supply lines of daily necessities and medical supplies kept moving, to discussing the care practices adopted by companies for frontline warriors, the informative panel discussions were truly an eyeopener for many.
Showcasing the impact this campaign had on the lives, seven Highway Heroes were felicitated while also giving them a chance to narrate their personal experiences. While Pravesh Kumar was the first highway hero who transported the first container of Covishield vaccines from Pune to Gujarat, Shivshankar helped transport oxygen concentrators to various locations across India while driving for over 36 hours at a stretch. Other Highway Heroes featured, included Harish who helped transport daily essentials, Seranthain M, Samuthirapandian, and Vijay Kasangar who transported liquid medical oxygen during the pandemic. These drivers were trained by Shriram Transport Finance Company to drive these trucks. Last, but not least, was the driver of the clinic on wheels – Dharamveer – who drove vehicles that were each fitted with beds, oxygen cylinders, and essential medical facilities but parked outside hospitals.
Commenting on the success this social campaign received, Barun Das, CEO, TV9 Network, said, “The pandemic has been great learning for all of us. We are conscious of our responsibility as the Number 1 News Network. We realized that with great power comes great responsibility and we decided that we will remain true to our core which is to be of service to the public. We, therefore, decided to raise pertinent questions, and also address issues that needed to be discussed, hence was born ‘Highway Heroes’.”
Elaborating further on the initiative, he added, “While 1 crore is a large number, in reality, they are the ones carrying the load of 129 crore people. Hence, in my opinion, today is not the culmination, but in reality, the beginning of our commitment towards the community of truck drivers thus expressing that we care for them in the same way that we care for all aspects of our society.”
Umesh Revankar, Vice Chairman, Shriram Transport Finance Company said, “As India emerges from the shadows of the pandemic, it is time to acknowledge the foot soldiers who kept the country on the move in face of sheer adversity. That’s why we thought that vaccinating truck drivers was the best possible way to salute their spirit and create awareness among this important segment of the transportation community against any vaccine hesitancy”
Revankar said that the company works closely with truck drivers – whether it’s helping them graduate from a driver to the owner of a truck or supporting their children with scholarships or ensuring regular health check-up camps. “We have broadened the scope of our existing relationship with the community and given the current context of the pandemic leading a vaccination drive seemed to the need of the hour,” added Revankar.
Echoing Revankar’s sentiments, S. Balamurugan, Lead CSR, STFC said: “We, at STFC, believe that support and care can transform their lives. Our endeavor is to provide continuous support to our partners, while, also focusing on their well-being. Since one’s health plays an important role in one’s wellbeing, we have been conducting medical check-ups for drivers and their families. The vaccination drive is a natural extension of our current focus on the well-being of truck drivers.”
Thanking Shriram Transport Finance Company for being part of Highway Heroes initiative, Raktim Das, Chief Growth Officer (Broadcasting & Digital), TV9 Network, said: “Truck drivers serve as the backbone of Indian economy and their contribution during the Covid crisis in ensuring that supply lines keep moving has been extraordinary. As a network, we deeply care about people and their progress, especially those at the margins. Highway Heroes campaign that vaccinated over 6000 truck drivers and their families across transport hubs is one more initiative from the group that showcases our concern and care for them.”
Dr. Rohini Sridhar, Senior Vice President, Medical Services, Apollo Hospitals talking about ‘Is India battle-ready for a third wave?’ said, “We have with time learned a lot about the virus but the one thing we learned after the first wave was that we do not know enough. So, in all probability, the plan to tackle the virus would have to undergo several changes in the future. The one thing we realized in the pandemic is the need for speed. Hence plans have to not only be made quickly but also made keeping in mind that there is a chance of change. While saying this, I would also like to highlight that we as a country have vaccinated more people than any other country – that is a great achievement.” Shedding light on the healthcare warriors, she added, “We always talk of warriors in context to the hospital but let us talk about them in the context of vaccinations instead. To vaccinate 85 percent of India’s adult population and completely vaccinate 50 percent of them is a stupendous achievement and that is one thing that will stand with us as we move forward.”