By Ram Khatry, Sydney
An amateur video made in defiance of a generalisation of Indians, specially Sikhs, as bad truck drivers has gone viral attracting nearly 1000 shares, over 1900 likes and 400 plus comments.
Members of Sikh communities across Australia lament that there have been a surge in racist rants and misrepresentation against them since an Indian driver on 457 visa caused traffic chaos on city-bound lanes of the M5 East in Sydney last Friday. Posted by trucking entrepreneur Amar Singh, who is of Sikh ethnicity himself, the Punjabi-language video was an answer to numerous derogatory posts by a Facebook page.
Mr Singh has since posted another video in English for the benefit of Australians at large which is a rough translation of its Punjabi counterpart. However, it is the original version which has done the job with over 68 thousand calls since the video was posted on February 8. He has made his phone number available in the video as a result of which, the devout Sikh told southasia.com.au, he has received hundreds of calls praising ‘the effort to educate and promote safe driving’ from within Australia, New Zealand and even from India.
Garry Singh, the driver involved in causing the infamous traffic jam on the M5 East, did not apparently have even basic trucking skills, such as reversing or disconnecting the rig of his B-double caught up on the motorway. RMS officials had to be called in to rescue the truck and open up the road for Sydneysiders.
Mr Singh and many of the commenters on his posts are not supporting Garry Singh at all but have come down heavily on the generalisation of Punjabi drivers as bad truckies which they say is utterly uncalled for simply because ‘there are thousands’ of other truck drivers who are also Punjabis but are as fantastic at their job as any of their Australian colleagues.
The second video posted on Tuesday concedes that the two drivers in the B-double were in the wrong, ”Those blokes stuffed up. They should not have been in that place, anywhere near it because as a professional driver you should plan your trip. If you are unsure, you should ring up our boss, ring up whoever and ask, ring up a mate for help, instead of putting a truck in a wrong situation.” But that does not mean people ‘sitting on Facebook and give us a bad rap’.
”When an Indian driver stuffs up, you all bloody gang up and think, that’s it, you know, they are not welcome, they are not this, they should not be here, they should not be there,” Mr Singh, who also goes by the monicker ‘Fully Sikh’, complained.
He does not appear to be content by merely posting a video to fight the verbal attack on his community. He has taken his battle to all fronts of the ongoing social media war. Commenting on a post by Truckin Australia, he argues that everyone knows ‘the bloke who got the truck stuck in the tunnel was stupid, but don’t paint everyone with the same brush.’ The post has a photoshopped image of Lakhwinder Singh Dhillon who made history by returning over $100,000 he found in his taxi to the rightful owner of the cash. One would only need to visit the Facebook page to witness the concern of the community as they vehemently respond to the photoshopped images of Sikh or Indian men.
”The pics used by them promote hatred, racism and bigotry,” Amar Singh told southasia.com.au, ”The rude captions put on the pics are not called for at all.” Blaming the entire community is wrong and uneducated response by mainstream media, he rued and added that a Turban ‘holds a very high wharf’ in Sikh culture but ‘these ppl are using it knowingly’.
Back in the world of social media, Mr Singh cites a number of instances in which tragic loss of multiple lives occurred – the drivers were not Indians but Australians, he argues. ”Should we start saying you junkie, red necks can’t drive for shit and kill people…I’m not here to justify that clowns actions but there are thousands of Indian driver who do the right thing (sic),” he says.
Truckin Australia, a page with 58,000 Facebook likes, responded to his thoughts by saying that the admin of the page used the picture of Mr Dhillon’s picture to give ”an example of how Indians get truck licences” while Australians ”have to slog it out for years to get the licence and get experience just to get a go’.
It is not only members of the Australian Indian community who have been left offended by the social media posts but many Australians have expressed similar feelings such as Dave Balangé, ”Got no problem with Indian Aussies who are suitably qualified and experienced. But even they should be pissed off at Linfox and Scott’s sponsoring 457’s for unqualified idiots like the turkey in the airport tunnel last week. They are not helping India ( they are importing them specifically so they can pay them less ) and they are not helping Australia, by fingering Aussie drivers and making our roads far more dangerous.”
Mr Singh plans to hold ‘information sessions’ in near future to educate new drivers. The programme is expected to benefit specially those who are new in the country and are unaware of the more specialised ways of doing business when it comes to trucking in Australia.