Enough has been said about traffic, air pollution and a space crunch in cities due to a rise in the number of private vehicles. But what has been done? From year 2013, at least Gurgaon and Delhi can proudly say that something’s been done in form of their local event, Raahgiri Day.
Based on the lines of Bogota’s Ciclovia, a boycott of unsustainable urban development practices wherein cars are kept off the street and replaced by bicycle lanes, Raahgiri Day was first planned and executed in the NCR region Gurgaon (now Gurugram) headed by five organisations–EMBARQ India, I am Gurgaon, Pedalyatri, Heritage School Gurgaon and Duplays Gurgaon. After Ciclovia, the trend caught on really quick in other countries of the world and there were summer streets, open streets, happy streets etc. And it had to. The concept was revolutionising, and useful too.
What is Raahgiri Day?
Indians living outside of Delhi NCR might not be aware of this term, but some cities like Mumbai have adopted this concept in the form of Equal Streets. Similarly, Raahgiri Day is a mission to reclaim the streets by keeping them car-free for a fixed time or day, so citizens can come out and walk, play, or do just about anything they fancy on ‘their streets’!
We spoke to Girivar Goel, a passionate dancer and businessman by profession. In his words, “Raahgiri is an attraction, an attraction for fitness lovers, environment lovers and for those who want to have a good Sunday morning. I got associated with Raahgiri through an NGO and the feeling is ecstatic when you are there. It feels like you have reclaimed the roads and are playing your part in saving the environment.” He definitely sounds elated and proud, as he tells us further about the events and happenings on a Raahgiri Day.
What a bunch of people initiated in Gurgaon 2013, soon spread to the capital of the country. In July 2014, Delhi hosted the event with a strength of 5,000 and on its first anniversary in 2015, the novel idea could easily attract more than 20,000 folks on the streets.
What’s the agenda?
Some call it an event, some call it a movement and others even call it a festival. Raahgiri Day is for one and all (the next event is on 9th July, read more here).
People show up in thousands on the big day–they dance, they cycle, they exercise, they play and do all cool things while they show their love for mother nature. Everybody is welcome, there’s no planned and staged event. It’s a random exhibit of oneness that people express on Raahgiri Day. As Dushyant Kapoor, a volunteer at one of the Delhi events tells us, “Raahgiri is an eye-opener towards better roads and better environment. Until now, we had never witnessed car-free zones and Raahgiri represents a completely new picture of a regular Delhi road. Considering the huge success of Raahgiri, it is evident that people are ready to embrace any change that can help the environment.”
The street extravaganza is now celebrated every Sunday in various parts of Delhi wherein few roads of the capital are chalked out to be closed on that particular day. Stages are set on these roads at various locations for the performers. It’s a good reason now for many to ditch their lazy Sunday mornings and to promote the cause by not using the car for at least one day in a week.
So, set your alarm clocks and block yourself from 7 am to 12 noon this Sunday as it’s going to be the anniversary for Raahgiri Day.
Let’s not forget, this road reclamation has just begun. Many more cities in India are going to welcome it and if your city hasn’t taken it up yet, why not plan your own Raahgiri?
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