Gandhi at 150: He walked 18 kms a day and avoided using cars, rickshaws

He was ahead of his times in choosing sustainable transport for his tours and travel

By Pallavi Ghosh
Published: Tuesday 01 October 2019
Mahatma Gandhi never travelled by air. Photo: Getty Images

After returning from South Africa in 1915, Mahatma Gandhi dedicated most of his time in India to travelling. CB Dalal chronicled Gandhi’s stay in India until his assassination in 1948. The book Gandhi: (1915-1948) A Detailed Chronology shares some lesser-known details about Gandhi. For example, Gandhi spent a majority of his time in India, 5,217 days to be precise, travelling.

The way he travelled to different parts of the country revealed that ethics of sustainable mobility. According to Dalal, Gandhi never travelled by air despite the fact that there were aircraft during his time. Even for England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, Gandhi used the sea route. While travelling within India, Gandhi was dependent on trains and cars but he made sure that they were not the only modes of transport he relied on. He walked extensively.

His foot march to Noakhali and Tipperah districts, from November 1946 to February 1947, where he appealed for peace in the aftermath of communal violence is another outstanding example of remarkable capacity to walk.

Gandhi had also been on a bicycle-ride once in India, wrote Dalal. Drawing from these examples, it would not be wrong to suggest that Gandhi was ahead of his times in choosing sustainable transport for his tours and travel.

Apart from walking and cycle rides, he used bullock carts, horse carriages and country boats to move from one place to another. He also rode horses, elephants and camels on different occasions. Gandhi did not like sitting in hand-pulled rickshaws and palanquins.

This was because of the deplorable condition of rickshaw pullers and palanquin bearers who were forced to carry as many as four people on some occasions. This, for Gandhi, was pure exploitation of the poor.

Gandhi walked 18 kilometres a day for nearly 40 years, stated an analysis published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research in 2019. The analysis, which was done by Balram Bhargava and Rajni Kant of the Indian Council of Medical Research, contained an elaborate account of Gandhi’s health profile.

Health records published in the journal also revealed that he walked a total of 79,000 km during his political campaigns from 1913 to 1948. Gandhi's choices with regard to transport were based on the idea of avoiding the misuse and abuse of resources. He relied on a rigorous rationalisation of transport options and avoided the unnecessary reliance on cars for covering short distances.

(This is part of Gobar Times' print edition dated October 1-15, 2019)

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