The 6 month long Pada Yatra undertaken by our former Prime Minister Chandra Shekharji from Kanyakumari to New Delhi has become an integral part of India's political history.At the commencement of the Padayatra,ShriSMJoshi a veteran Socialist leader from Maharashtra came to bless the Padayatra.
Times have changed since then,and with them values and principles of of society and the Nation have gone through a sea change.Today,it is unthinkable for most, the painstaking struggles he and the padayatris went through during this Long and arduous March. SridharaTumari has meaningfully documented the photographs of this PadYatra.His effort has been to cover through photographs,and explain in a vivid manner the purpose and meaning of such an unique effort.
Sri Chandra Shekharji, a true socialist, understood the value of human connect. He knew that the genuine way of knowing the pains and problems of people was to interact and engage with them at a grassroot level. There is no replacement for a physical humane effort and Contact as well as connect. Therefore, he set out on the Padyatra in order to understand his countrymen and their problems and try and change the system in favor of the poor, disadvantaged and the marginalized. The issue of water became the core of his concern and focus during the Padayatra as we marched across the country. He spoke at the length of implementing the unfulfilled dreams of the Freedom struggle.
I had kept close contact with Chandra Shekharji right from my young age and I believed that the PadaYatra was a very innovative of connecting with the people. As a part of planning for it, Chandra Shekharji had sent some senior leaders of the janata Party to study whether padayatra was relevant tool to do public work, and whether it was feasible or not. All of them advised him to drop his plans of carrying out the PadaYatra as it was not relevant for people who were in the pursuit of power. However, he was not satisfied with this argument and therefore asked me to revisit the different states and gather the opinion from the people. As I understood his wishes and also his intention of doing the PadaYatra, I saw that there was great enthusiasm, and people thought that this was a great idea of Chandra Shekharji and welcomed it with a lot of enthusiasms. When I met the people of different regions and got to know of their opinions, I prepared a complete report and presented of it to Chandra Shekharji.He was overjoyed and decided in favor of carrying out this great venture which looked more like an adventure in the beginning, as it meant that we would be walking for over 25 km every day. He gave his consent immediately, fixed the date and asked me to go forward in organizing the logistics and managing the entire PadaYatra efficiently. It was great responsibility thrust upon me as I was too young and had no such experience of the past.
When we started the PadaYatra from Kanyakumari Janata Party had won the elections in Karnataka and was in the process of forming a Government. He did not abandon his PadaYatrafor power and commenced it on the scheduled date 6th January 1983.This was proof of his genuine intention of connecting with people in order to understand them and their problems rather be in the corridors and the seat of power.
As soon as Chandra Shekharji and the the entire Padayatris arrived in Karnataka,ShriRamaKrishna Hegde and the entire cabinet and leaders of Janata Party,as well as other parties welcomed him with flowers and bouquets’.DeveGowda,SRBommai,MRaghupathi and Abdul Najir were there to welcome him in the different parts of Karnataka.The hand book “VicharaYatrika” authored by KhadriShamanna regarding the Pada Yatra reflected the concept of Bharathyatra of Chandrashekarji. When the PadaYatra came to Anekal, the local prominent congress leader and Taluk Congress President Shamanna invited Chandra Shekharji to his home to welcome him with warm hospitality. The entire town was decked up as though with festivities. When the press reporters asked whether Shamanna, being Congress leader, did the right thing, Shamanna replied that BharathYatra of Chandra Shekharji was for the welfare of the entire nation and not for the benefit of his own party and further said that everyone should support it.AtChitradurga the most important and Veteran Freedom Fighter former CM of Karnataka Shri S Nijilingappa welcomed us in his village in Chitradurga District.
Bhai Vaidya,Beni Prasad Madhav were among the senior leaders in the entire entourage of the Padayatris,who from time to time guided and helped during the course of the Padayatra. Along the way, several people joined him in support and contributed liberally to meet the expenditure of the PadaYatra. This really added to his and that of the padayatris,the enthusiasm during the painstaking tiresome journey.The impact of the PadaYatra was clearly visible on the governance of Janata Party rule in Karnatake.They took up the issue drinking water on priority basis and also implemented the decentralization of power through revolutionary Panchayat Raj Bill. In view of all this the BharatYatra of Chandra Shekharji became very popular in Karnataka. Towards the end when we marched from Humayun Tomb,MarkTully of the BBC who was a very well-known journalist came took long interview of Chandra Shekharji.Finally when the PadaYatra reached Gandhi Samadhi a sea of humanity walked along with him. At the Gandhi Samadhi, a pledge was taken to continue the spirit of Bharat Yatra and to work for the principles which were cherished during the freedom struggle. The Social action program was to be carried out by the padayatris around the five-point program. Drinking Water, Nutrition food, Primary education, Dignity and Equality for SC&ST population, and Communal harmony Towards the of PadYatra we had become a like a family Each one of the padayatri departed with a heavy heart and tears in their eyes. Chandra Shekharji did his best to show the a New path and a New Vision to the coming generation,and now it is for the new Generation to carry this spirit of altruism forward.
To conclude,I am reminded by his words,which he repeated many a times which he shared during his last days of life that "Bharat Yatra was the highest point of his life. “He also felt that that the experiment of going to the masses to understand reality from 'Bottom Top' is the right approach in Social life. It was the Bharat which gave him the true meaning and purpose of life.