The profile of the railway porters in the city of the Taj Mahal is set to change with lessons on good manners, charm and courteousness.
"Coolies can make or mar the image of the city. They are the brand ambassadors of Agra. We will interact with them regularly to expose them to innovative ideas and demands of the hospitality industry," said Lav Kush Mishra, director of Agra University's Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management.
"As the first people to interact with tourists when they get off the trains to see Agra, the porters must leave a lasting first impression with their helpful manners," Mishra said.
The porters have already had interactions with tourism department manager Sudhir Kumar, Agra Fort railway station manager Kishan Singh and the institute's faculty members.
"The response has been very good. Last year we conducted the same programme at Raja ki Mandi station, which today is among the neatest. The porters there are polite, decent and helpful. They will even scold you if you litter the place," said Santosh Upadhyaya, a faculty member.
Sudhir Kumar said the porters should help visitors with some basic information about the city, like entrance ticket rates, opening and closing time of various monuments, distances and eateries.
Station manager Kishan Singh wanted the porters to cooperate in keeping the platforms clean and ensuring maintenance of proper hygienic standards.
Mishra also said that porters should not be treated as some "lowly paid slaves in red shirts of the colonial era".
"Today's hospitality industry looks at them as messengers or brand ambassadors on whose shoulders rest the big responsibility to promote tourism in Agra."