Sanjeeta Singh Naruka Negi, 51, and Piyush Shah, 58, cycled over 1,000 km from Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat to Raj Ghat in Delhi. However, their epic 10-day trip was not just another travel adventure. In addition to making the trip, the intrepid cyclists had set out with another agenda.
Negi, who works as an organic farming and water harvesting consultant and is also an avid cyclist, decided to address a crucial issue facing India — the lack of efficient waste disposal. "Everybody blames the municipality and the government for their inability to find a solution to ineffective waste disposal. But, as citizens, we do not come forth to claim any responsibility ourselves. That must change," Negi told HuffPost India.
To go about her mission, she enlisted the help and support of fellow cycling aficionado and runner, Piyush Shah. Shah did not know much about waste management but readily agreed to cycle with Negi. The duo set out from Ahmedabad on 2 January and reached Delhi on 11 January. They had a car following them all through the journey, with their luggage, necessary medicines and equipment. "Although we completed the journey without any hiccups, we did face a lot of problem regarding traffic and the speeding cars on the National Highway. We had to remain very alert all through the way," Shah told HuffPost India.
"But, as citizens, we do not come forth to claim any responsibility ourselves. That must change."
Along the way, the duo took their knowledge of waste management and the importance of cleanliness to small villages, towns and even cities, and held sessions on how people could make a difference. They would put up for the night wherever they found decent accommodation. "Some days we would cycle 80 km, while some days we would go on for some 130 km. We stayed wherever we found a place," Shah explained.
"We wanted people to see our effort and dedication to the cause and inspire them to do their bit," Negi said, explaining why she undertook the journey. "Likewise, when people heard that we have been travelling for so long to talk about waste management, it made them acknowledge our efforts and made them realize that they can take a small step as well."
"We simply asked them to take care of their own waste."
The thrust of Negi's message on waste disposal was self-reliance. "We simply asked them to take care of their own waste," she said. "They don't even have to care about the others. All one needs to do is segregate the waste into dry and kitchen. The dry waste can be given away to the garbage pickers and the kitchen waste can be easily turned into compost by mixing it with dry leaves, a form of mixer, and covering it with newspaper."
The cyclists on a mission addressed listeners in NGOs, schools, clubs, municipalities, basically wherever they could gather a crowd, either with the help of friends who resided locally or by word of mouth.
They also spoke with municipality officials in an attempt to get them to enlist the help of residents. "We are also looking to working with them closely, since the response has been very favourable," Negi explained. "Not only are we telling them how to efficiently manage waste; we also think they should hold workshops and guide residents on what to do."
The duo is plans to further spread their message on waste disposal in Gujarat and then take it to the rest of the country.