BHUBANESWAR: Disha witnessed a 27 per cent (pc) rise in road accident deaths during the period between September and October last year compared to the corresponding period in 2019, drawing ire of the Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety.
While 872 persons died in road mishaps in that period in 2020, 684 deaths were reported between September and October in 2019.
So when the State government felt the need for making people aware of road safety issues, Sidharth Sankar Dash of Dhenkanal decided to rise to the occasion. The 37-year-old ex-Armyman is now running a 500-km marathon, organised by State Transport Authority (STA), through seven districts - Khurda, Puri, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur, Dhenkanal and Angul - to create awareness among people about safe road use. On Saturday, he ran through Jagatsinghpur where he met children and their parents at various places and spoke to them about the need to follow traffic rules.
Recalling an incident during his posting in Delhi when he witnessed an accident in which a motorcyclist was run over by a train at an unmanned level crossing, he urged people to follow the road rules even if they get late by a few minutes in reaching their destinations. Accompanying him is a support vehicle that carries banners with messages on obeying traffic rules to make the State free from accidents.
A native of Govindpur village in Dhenkanal’s Marthapur gram panchayat, Dash began the marathon from Kalinga Stadium in the Capital City on Thursday which was flagged off by Transport Commissioner-cum-Chairman of STA Sanjeeb Panda. Dash is running 50 km everyday in two phases - 30 km from 6 am to 9 am and the remaining 20 km after 3.30 pm - and in the night, he takes rest in either lodges or police stations. “So far, the campaign’s response has been good and the people are approaching me to know about the run and its motive,” said Dash who is passionate about physical fitness and running.
In the last three days, he has covered parts of Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts and plans to run through Dhenkanal and Cuttack districts before returning to Bhubaneswar on February 20. Son of a farmer, Dash joined the Army in 2003 while pursuing his graduation from Jiral College in Dhenkanal district.
He left his studies halfway to join the Regiment of Artillery as a soldier and later completed his graduation in 2013. During his service of 17 years, Dash was posted at various places like Nashik, Sagar in Madhya Pradesh, Akhnoor, Srinagar, Jammu, Ferozepur in Punjab and Oodlabari in West Bengal and all throughout, he nurtured his passion for running.
After his retirement in September 2020, he returned to his hometown and formed Pride Runners and Cyclists Community along with three of his friends to create an interest among youths in running and cycling. He also set up a gym in his village through which he ekes out his living now.
Dash believes his marathons should have a purpose. He ran from Dhenkanal to Bhubaneswar in November last year in appreciation of the efforts of Corona Warriors in the battle against the pandemic. In 2019, he had dedicated a marathon from Dhenkanal to Bhubaneswar in the memory of late mountaineer Kalpana Dash on the occasion of 73rd Independence Day.