KOCHI: “Be the change you want to see in the world,” Mahatma Gandhi once said. And now, a group of youngsters has set out to live by it. The group, which calls themselves ‘Proud Indians’, embarked on ‘Honest Steps’, a remarkable journey from Kanyakumari to New Delhi by foot, to assert the need for personal honesty to create an honest nation. The team started the walk on December 18 reached Kochi recently.
“People, who crib about the system being unfair and society being deceitful, are seldom honest themselves. There won’t be an honest system without honest people because each person counts,” said Abdul Mujeeb Khan, who leads the team and runs BHUMI, an NGO working on leadership building among slum-dwellers.
The group aims to inspire a million Indians to join the cause. “We are not asking people to walk all the way with us. It could be a kilometre or maybe a whole day’s journey; it is up to them to decide how much they want to pitch in,” said Jawad Ali, a budding filmmaker who, along with counterpart Faiz Rai, is the team member in charge of documenting the whole journey.
Apart from the oath to maintain personal honesty, the group is also aiming at living on just Rs 32 a day per person. “In our country, Rs 32 is said to be the expenditure of a poor man per day. With over 60 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, we decided that we should experience what they go through everyday in order to know who they really are and what shapes them. So we decided to impose poverty on ourselves. But we failed terribly. It is simply impossible to survive on such a meagre amount with a cup of tea costing around `5 and a boiled egg costing as much. This has been especially tough for us since we cover around 40 km a day,” said Abdul Mujeeb.
“So far we have covered 250-odd km by foot and to keep up with the schedule, we have travelled by vehicles when absolutely necessary. We have also met over 1,000 people. Wherever we go, the youngsters of the area are the first ones to show interest in us. But after they talk about us to their elders, they slowly draw back. There has been a lot of scepticism about us because of our vagabond looks. A couple of days ago, we were picked up by the Cherthala police since they had received around seven complaints about ‘strangers’ roaming around town. Apparently, the locals suspected us of being terrorists. But there has also been a tremendous amount of support. We had people inviting us to their homes, feeding us and letting us rest there,” said Vivek Reddy, a freelance soft skills trainer by profession.
The team also includes Raju, a driver. They were joined by Rohit Lingeneni (a brand consultant) and Akshay Deshpande (a hotel management student) in Thrissur, their next destination. The ‘Proud Indians’ are planning to reach New Delhi on April 7 and celebrate April 8 as ‘Zero Corruption Day’. “We want people to be completely honest for at least a day,” the team said.
Those interested to support the cause may contact Abdul Mujeeb Khan at +91-9849211083 or Vivek Reddy at +91-9397945872 or visit their Facebook page on www.facebook.com/zerocorruptionday.