Wonder wheels

It’s a big moment for volunteer group Relief Riders of India, led by bicycle mayor Sathya Sankaran, which has been nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for their work during the lockdowns

Published: 02nd December 2021 06:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd December 2021 06:27 AM   |  A+A-

Volunteers of Relief Riders delivering Covid-19 essentials in the city during the 2020 lockdown

Express News Service

BENGALURU: In 2020, when the world went under lockdown, this group stepped out to help those in need. Be it buying groceries or medicines, volunteer group Relief Riders of India, who rode bicycles to get the job done, went out of their way, quite literally, to ensure that people didn’t feel helpless. It’s a milestone moment for the group now which has officially been nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize. Sankaran received a letter from Leszek Sibilski, originator of World Bicycle Day, informing him about the nomination. A copy of the email was shared with CE. 

Led by Bengaluru’s bicycle mayor Sathya Sankaran, the volunteer group which started off with 80 people now comprises 275 members. In fact, the team also received the 2021 World Bicycle Day Award this year. 

Speaking to CE, Sankaran says, “We were just helping out as best as we could and we’re happy that our work has been recognised on an international platform. When the world had to hit the pause button, there were several people who couldn’t help themselves. The volunteers really came together and provided them with whatever they needed.” 

Anyone who could ride a cycle and were above the age 18 were ‘warriors’ at this time. “Many youngsters under the age of 18 too often accompanied their parents for pick-ups and drop-offs. Some senior citizens also wanted to volunteer but we didn’t encourage it too much as the vaccine wasn’t available back then,” says the mayor. 

Challenges were numerous considering the uncertain circumstances that continue till date. “During the initial lockdown, all motorised vehicles were banned, and that’s why we were the perfect rescuers. But then the debate of cyclists also needing a pass came about. Thankfully, all of it worked out and we were allowed to carry on with the volunteering work,” says Sankaran, adding that the team also developed an app to track the goings-on of the group. “We made sure that everyone was safe and if at all they didn’t feel alright, they were immediately asked to stay away till things were okay again. The app really helped bring this whole initiative together,” he adds. 

Sankaran feels the international media found the work impressive because of the sheer population of the country. “Every country has its own struggle but our population is insanely high compared to others. So, it makes it all the more complex,” he says. If and when the services of the Relief Riders of India are required, Sankaran is all set to press the pedal on the metal. But right now, he’s basking in the glory of the nomination and the recognition their work has received.


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