Raahgiri Day, a pioneering Heritage initiative, recently
gained international recognition as one of the 24 most inspiring stories
in ‘Pathways to Green Cities’ by the Earth Day Network. It is also listed as
a top experience among 14 in Gurgaon by Lonely Planet. Apart from accolades,
and more importantly, the initiative has allowed Heritage students amass a wealth
of learnings on managing projects, research, delegation, making recommendations and following
through. More than this, it has taught them to become
dutiful and aware citizens, caring enough to make a difference.
It all started in 2011 when a group of students from The Heritage School, Gurgaon surveyed and studied the streets and people of
Gurgaon and presented their study report and recommendations to the local administration. Finally, in 2013, found support in Pedal Yatris, NMT groups and Embarq India. What was encouraging and a great learning experience for the students was how the Municipal Corporation Commissioner, the Police Commissioner, the HUDA administrator, City Counsellors cycled 14 kilometres to make the final push for their recommendations.
As a result, 10,000 people came out of their houses, on 17 November 2013 in Gurgaon, for the country’s first ever car-free Sunday. That morning, cars and other motorised vehicles the that usually dominate the streetscape were replaced by pedestrians, cyclists, and runners with children enjoying a game of soccer or cricket; women dancing to Zumba and youngsters crooning to rock numbers.
Since then, 3.5 lakh people have joined this citizen movement of re-claiming its roads.
Raahgiri Day’s modeled after “Ciclovia”, an event that began in Bogotá, Colombia in 1976, and closed streets to cars and opened them for the exclusive use of people. Raah, a path or journey, combines with ‘GandhiGiri’, a colloquial adaptation of Mahatma Gandhi's transformative technique of non-violence, to form Raahgiri. It represents a move towards sustainable development, one of constructing permanent bikeways and sidewalks all over the cities to enable a better quality of life for our current and future generations.
In India, the event has grown from strength to strength, with more and more cities following suit – Delhi, Ludhiana and Pune. From 4 May 2014, Municipal Corporation and Police Department, Gurgaon, have taken on the additional
responsibility of organising Raahgiri Day.
Though these public agencies have had a major role to play in the success and growth of the movement, it is the first time in India’s history that they have decided to own and organise an event of this scale. We can only hope for a future in Gurgaon and beyond where government officials and citizens are working together to bring about safer roads in India.