On the 91st anniversary of the Dandi march, the event will be re-enacted by 81 runners — to match the number of the 1930 march participants led by Mahatma Gandhi — who will be escorted by ambulances, dieticians, and a vehicle carrying other emergency needs including hydration supplements, under supervision of professional coaches of the Sports Authority of Gujarat (SAG).
The march, along the 386-kilometre route of the salt march from Sabarmati Ashram to the coastal town of Dandi, will be flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to launch the celebrations of the 75th year of Independence, titled “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav”.
The list of 81 runners who will join the symbolic march include doctors, businessmen, sportspersons, sports coaches and pharma executives among others — all regular marathon runners. In addition, a list of coaches from various sports academies under the SAG has also been prepared.
“The plan is to cover around 20 km per day,” said a Gujarat government official. Officials from the government confirmed that various departments are involved in the planning of the run and logistics.
A senior official said, “There will be a coach assigned for a group of 10 persons. They will ensure the fitness of the runners during the event of 25 days. There will also be dieticians and physiotherapists, some of whom are also participants.”
There will also be stand by coaches to step in if needed. The march, which will pass through the villages of Kheda, Anand, Vadodara, Bharuch, Surat and Navsari, will have 21 halts. Officials said that the exact route map will be prepared as the march commences and the plan is “open to changes”.
An official added, “It is going to take place just as summer sets in and hence the need to have experts along with runners is significant. There will be enough logistical support to ensure supply of energy drinks, rehydration supplements, fruits and other essentials for the runners. Night halts will be almost daily but in some stretches, the group might also undertake some late night symbolic walks.”
On Tuesday, Chief minister Vijay Rupani presided over a meeting to finalise the plan that includes beaming the flagging off event by PM Modi on Friday, at 75 places including those related to Mahatma Gandhi, such as Dandi, Porbandar, Rajkot, Bardoli and Vadodara, which will also host cultural programmes themed on the Independence Day.
Apart from government officials and ministers, leader of opposition Paresh Dhanani, Sahitya Akademi president Vishnu Pandya, trustee of the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (SAPMT) Kartikeya Sarabhai participated in the meeting.
Dhanani told this paper, “The Congress will support the programme which will be held in the state for 75 weeks to showcase an independent and united India.” He welcomed the initiative to recollect the proud history of Gujarat, the land of Gandhi and Sardar, where the foundation of independent and united India was laid.
A tourism official confirmed that the night halts will eventually become part of The Dandi Heritage Corridor Project planned to commemorate the Dandi Yatra. “There will be huts with basic facilities at these night halts for the participants. The night halts along the route include Nadiad, Anand, Navsari and the bank of Tapi river near Surat… There will be memorial stones at these locations with Gandhi’s words engraved… A sidewalk along the route will also be developed for the people who may want to join the march.”
Last year, the Gujarat government launched an initiative to preserve close to 100 trees along the route that became part of Gandhi’s walk. “They are common trees such as mango and banyan trees that were prominent in Gandhi’s journey during the freedom struggle. This symbolic event will help the project,” the tourism official said.
(With inputs from ENS Gandhinagar)