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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Explained: Why Punjab Police want Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary to be declared ‘World Pedestrian Day’

A written proposal in this regard may be sent to the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways soon. The Indian Express explains the idea behind the move.

Written by Divya Goyal |
Updated: November 2, 2021 12:33:52 pm
To spread the message of oneness and to break barriers across faiths by engaging in spiritual dialogues, the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, travelled far and wide during the 15th and 16th centuries. (File Photo)

In a meeting with state transport minister, Amarinder Raja Warring, recently on Road Safety, Punjab Police’s ADGP (traffic), Dr Sharad Satya Chauhan, proposed that the birth anniversary (Gurpurab) of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev be declared as ‘World Pedestrian Day’. A written proposal in this regard may be sent to the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways soon. The Indian Express explains the idea behind the move.

Why is Guru Nanak Dev considered the world’s most notable and revered pedestrian?

To spread the message of oneness and to break barriers across faiths by engaging in spiritual dialogues, the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, travelled far and wide during the 15th and 16th centuries. From Mecca to Haridwar, from Sylhet to Mount Kailash, Guru Nanak visited hundreds of interfaith sites related to Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Jainism throughout his journeys (also called udaasis). At some sites, gurdwaras were constructed to commemorate his visit. Later his travels were documented in texts called ‘janamsakhis’. These sites are now spread across nine nations as per current geographical divisions — India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, China (Tibet), Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan — and some are even inaccessible due to travel restrictions or being located in conflict zones. It is believed that during those times, when early modes of transport were limited and were mostly restricted to boats, animals (horses, mules, camels, bullock carts), Guru Nanak Dev, along with his companion Bhai Mardana, undertook most part of his journeys on foot.

Present day countries where Guru Nanak Dev is believed to have traveled.

What is the proposal of the Punjab Police?

In a written proposal that has been prepared by Punjab Police’s ADGP (traffic), Sharad Satya Chauhan, for submission to state’s transport minister Amrinder Raja Warring, it has been suggested that Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary (Gurpurab) be declared as ‘Pedestrian Day’. This year Guru Nanak’s 552nd Gurpurab will be celebrated on November 19. The proposal further says that while beginning can be made by declaring ‘National Pedestrian Day’ within the country by the Union ministry, the Government of India can later take up the matter with the United Nations to get Gurpurab declared as ‘World Pedestrian Day’ to spread awareness on road safety.

“In a period of 24 years (1500-1524), Guru Nanak traveled in all directions to show the path of love, equality, humanity, and selfless service to mankind. Most of his journeys were made on foot with his companion Bhai Mardana. He travelled in all four directions. The founder of Sikhism, made walking an integral part of the “Sikh culture”. Each gurdwara now has “parikrama”. On the occasion of the birthday of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, if the government can dedicate a day for pedestrian safety, then it will certainly bring major changes towards their safety and highlight the government’s commitment towards “Right to walk” or pedestrian rights. A community which safeguards its pedestrian is treated as developed and contributes to sustainable development goals,” says the proposal note prepared by the Punjab Police.

What is the motive behind this idea?

ADGP Chauhan says that the idea is to spread awareness on road safety for pedestrians by introducing Guru Nanak Dev’s own life as an inspiration, considering that Nanak’s teachings and followers are neither limited to any one country or religion. “The best results are achieved only when the community is mobilized for a cause. Walking is the best way which conveys equality amongst all. Walking is a universal form of travel. It is high time that the society and governments focus towards safe walking and immediately it can be started through awareness on an important occasion of the world’s only notable pedestrian, Guru Nanak Dev,” says Chauhan. “On an average, at least a thousand pedestrian deaths are reported in Punjab alone each year. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to transportation, but at some point in the day, everyone is a pedestrian and unfortunately pedestrian fatalities remain high. Surveys show that in India, most children walk to school, and men/women walk to work. Guru Nanak is global and observing his birth anniversary as ‘Pedestrian Day’ will encourage citizens’ participation and we also plan to introduce ‘Save Pedestrian’ pledge for giving pedestrians the first right on the roads,” says the ADGP.

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Is this being mooted for the first time?

No, the proposal to designate Gurpurab as ‘World Pedestrian Day’ was conceptualized in 2019 ahead of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary celebrations. But Punjab’s transport department kept sitting on it and failed to send the proposal to the Union ministry. Punjab Police had dedicated Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary year (2019) to ‘Pedestrian Safety’ and held awareness activities throughout the year but the proposal to designate ‘Pedestrian Day’ had failed to materialize. Ahead of his 552nd birth anniversary, a fresh proposal has been submitted to the new Punjab transport minister Warring. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his greetings on Gurpurab, had said that Guru Nanak Dev travelled on foot to spread the message of love and peace.

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