Writes Vivek Chhetri
Darjeeling, Jan. 1: Around 40 Darjeeling residents today pedalled across the hill town in an attempt to curb air pollution and promote the use of environment-friendly mode of transport on a day the Delhi government imposed an odd-even number restriction on vehicles.
A group of adventure lovers in the hill town had called on cyclists to pedal from Darjeeling to Sukhiapokhri, a distance of about 20km, and back.
The voluntary initiative was supported by the district administration.
Today around 10.30am, the participants, including two women and several students, turned up at Chowrasta to start the rally.
The rally began with Darjeeling district magistrate Anurag Srivastava and district police chief Amit P. Javalgi in the lead.
"When I heard about the idea, I thought it had to be promoted. There is a lot of potential for the sport (cycling) in the hills," said Srivastava who pedalled up to the Gorkha Rangamach Bhavan area.
The organisers, among whom were businessmen and bicycle enthusiasts Sangay Sherpa, Urgen Sherpa, Dawa Sherpa and Shekar Biswakarma, said the objective of the rally was to spread a message among the hill people on the need to take up eco-friendly modes of transport.
"We want to make mountain biking trendy in the hills so that people start using cycles more often. Mountain biking can also be an additional attraction for tourists, apart from its health benefits. If we can all stop using vehicles even for a single week day (in a week), it would go a long way in preserving the environment of the region," said Sangay.
In Delhi, the government policy of odd-even vehicular restriction came into effect today.
The pilot plan, which attempts to reduce air pollution in the city, would be in force till January 15.
The restriction would be in force from 8am to 8pm.
Vehicles whose number plates end with an odd digit would ply on odd dates. On even days, vehicles having even numbers would run.
The fine for violation would be Rs 2,000 under the Motor Vehicles Act.
In Darjeeling, Sean Allan Lepcha, 12, a Class VII student of St Joseph's School(North Point), was taking part in a cycle rally for the first time.
"Recently, my father got a mountain bike for Rs 80,000. When I heard about the rally, I decided to take part. I believe that we need to do our bit to save the environment," he said.
Ashwin Tamang, 11, was one of the youngest participants.
Forty seven-year-old Uday Lama, a resident of Hooker Road here, said: "I have lived at Rennes in France for a long time and there I saw people who are 70-75 years old cycle regularly. I believe that cycling needs to be promoted, mainly among younger people, who are more into computer games and hardly indulge in outdoor activities. That is why I decided to take part in the rally."
Trishna Rai, 24, a resident of Darjeeling who stays in Kathmandu where she teaches at The British School, said: "This seems such a good adventure and I have come here to participate as this is also about women empowerment. I started cycling recently and I do it whenever I come here."
Soon after the rally began, the district administration launched a Hunger Free Darjeeling initiative with local NGOs, Who Cares, Sahoyogi Hath and All India Women Conference.
Around 300 street-dwellers were given food and blankets.
The administration plans to involve NGOs, hotels, restaurants and other associations in the distribution of food among street dwellers everyday.