The Swasth Bharat Yatra rally started from Leh on 16th October 2018 on ‘World Food Day’ and since then has covered a road distance in excess of 4800 kms with the help of 7300 cycling volunteers collectively touching 500+ destinations (Figures as on 11.11.18). These are huge numbers for any government led initiative and assured to shoot up further in the coming weeks. Swasth Bharat Yatra spans over four months between 16th October 2018 and culminates on 27th January 2019 at New Delhi.
Marking one hundred and fifty years of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, the yatra takes inspiration from ‘Dandi March’ also called as ‘Salt Satyagraha’. In March 1930, Mahatma with his Satyagrahis had set out on foot covering 390 kms of distance from Sabarmati Ashram to the coastal village of ‘Dandi’ in Gujarat. Dandi March was organised to protest against the british who had levied taxes on salt and fully controlling it. Gandhi ji was of the view that such taxes are unfair to the people and should be abolished. In modern times, the yatra is organised to tackle lifestyle ailments such as obesity, stress, lack of physical activity complemented by other issues such as excessive oil, sugar and salt intake. ‘Eat Right India’ campaign encourages citizens to follow a healthy lifestyle and claim freedom from unhealthy habits.
The Nationwide Swasth Bharat Yatra rally is segregated into 6 tracks – North Track, East Track, South West Track, South Central, North East Track and West Track. The West Track started from Goa, arrived in Mumbai, will proceed to Gujarat and finally reach Delhi after crossing Jaipur on it’s way. I had enrolled as a ‘Cycling Volunteer’ for the West Track route in Mumbai. The rally took place on tenth of November from Thane to Mumbai and had a distance of 27 kms.
The participants arrived in Thane at 8 am in the morning and all formalities pertaining to registrations, allocation of cycles, merchandise, safety gear and ride instructions were completed by 8.30 am. There was breakfast arranged for us at a hotel which was also the starting point. The rally was flagged of after passing the baton and we started pedaling in pairs of two. I could see high level of arrangements with one vehicle leading the rally from the front and a bus following us from the rear side – just in case someone needs to rest in between. Other support vehicles included a truck with spare cycles, accessories, merchandise, refreshments and promotional material. More importantly, an ambulance to tackle emergency situations. The entire rally from beginning to end, was well controlled and guided by a team of officials from local police and road traffic departments. The fssai officials stayed around us throughout the journey helping us navigate through the busy roads of Mumbai.
The rally had three stoppages in between for public engagement programs (Teen Hath Naka in Thane, Godrej Colony, Vikhroli and Vasant Dada Engineering College, Chembur). At each halt, the local municipal corporator, food and environment experts, government officials and photographers cheered and welcomed us as we arrived there. All cyclists were invited by the guest one by one and awarded with saplings, roses and we were called as ‘Champions of Change’. This act of felicitating the participants was repeated at each of the three venues. I was never honored so much before and as many times as it happened at this event in a single day. My two other fellow participants whom i met at the rally – Sachin and Rutesh had similar feelings. All the respect and admiration that we received was purely because we were ‘cyclists’. Personally, i would have missed out on all this had i not been into cycling. ‘Some say respect the cyclist, while some go ahead and do it’. Thank you fssai.
The on-ground activations involved talks and presentations by nutritional experts. They also showed us few films based on limiting salt, sugar and oil and advised to follow a mantra ‘Aaj se thoda kam’ (from today, everything in less quantity). A minivan converted into a ‘moving lab’ also called as ‘food safety on wheels’ was giving demonstrations to test food adulteration at one of the venue. By observing all the minute things i realised that fssai has planned this event at a phenomenal scale. And finally at the finishing point, ICT Matunga, there was lunch organized for us. It was followed by a closing ceremony with distribution of certificates, cake cutting and baton exchange announcing the next route from BKC to Manor.
Video Link about the yatra: Swasth Bharat Yatra – Mumbai
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai