Bike journey with a purpose

Travellers encounter with reality

Prabhu

A three-week long country-wide bike journey gave an exposure to mind-numbing experiences to Bangalore-based software engineer Prabhu, an insight which he could never have had staying put in the City.

Prabhu had embarked on the bike journey on September 29, to understand critical issues before the  nation. “Community interaction was an important aspect of my bike journey. Reading stories about stigma associated with AIDS, reports about price rise, displacement caused by demolition of slums, homelessness, problems of street children, in newspapers and magazines is one thing, while interacting with these communities in person is an altogether different experience,” Prabhu told Deccan Herald on his return recently.

“I love travelling. For a long time I had wanted to undertake a road trip on bike from Jammu & Kashmir to Kanyakumari. I zeroed in on the issue of poverty and got associated with Action Aid, an organisation that works towards alleviation of poverty,” recounted Prabhu after his three-week-long bike journey across India.

The community of HIV afflicted people in Pune explained how antibiotics provided by the government, if consumed on empty stomach is equivalent to taking poison. As the dosage is very strong, patients who take antibiotics should supplement it with nutritious food. However, the patients cannot afford healthy food. Thus, the government’s effort towards combating HIV/AIDS in isolation is not sustainable, he added.

Dharavi’s problems

The Maharashtra government, as part of its remodelling plan, wants to demolish the Dharavi slum and construct apartments in its place for the slum dwellers.

A majority of the slum-dwellers do not own houses but live in rented houses. Moreover, in order to secure a house in the apartment, the slum-dwellers should furnish ID proof, which authenticates their existence before 1995. Thus, in more than 50 per cent of the cases it is the house owners, who are not the slum-dwellers, who succeed in getting the ownership of the house. In the final analysis, the problem of housing the slum dwellers remains unsolved, underlined the biker.

“On my journey I halted for a while at Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan. The only source of income of forest dwellers at Sariska is cow milk. However, to sell the milk they have to travel 40 kms into the City and the transport system cannot be banked upon. The forest dwellers are deprived of basic amenities and the Government is not keen on providing even electricity to them, as it is apprehensive of disturbing the wildlife. The forest-dwellers in turn cannot be convinced to move into the City, as they have always been staying in the forests. Thus, there are not quick fix solutions to problems plaguing a diverse and huge nation like ours,” reflected Prabhu.

Street children

In Varanasi, Prabhu was exposed to the issue of street children.  “I interacted with members of an NGO that deals with the rehabilitation of street children. The organisation has started a shelter for them, where they can rest and stay on their own accord, until they attain 18 years of age. Those children, who are willing to study, are enrolled in schools, while those who decline to go to school are not forced to study. Similarly, in Calcutta, I was sensitized towards the problems of pavement dwellers. The Government alone cannot solve the multifarious problems facing our nation. Thus, NGOs, the civil society should pitch in and collaborate with the government at large and try to find solutions to various issues at different levels,” he elaborated.

“I have been sensitised to various problems in our society, in a vivid manner, through this bike journey. From now on newspaper reports would not boil down to mere statistics. However, at the moment I don’t have a concrete plan with regard to my future course of action. However, eventually I will get involved,” asserted Prabhu.

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