British envoy’s wife to retrace Dandi march to help poor

November 15th, 2010 - 7:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin Tendulkar Mumbai, Nov 15 (IANS) Eighty years after Mahatma Gandhi shook the British empire with his Dandi march as part of the salt satyagraha, a Briton will retrace the 360-km route to raise funds for Mumbai and Gujarat-based NGOs serving the deprived.

The modern march, called “India-UK Friendship Walk” will be undertaken by Jill Beckingham, wife of Britain’s Deputy High commissioner in Mumbai, Peter Beckingham, from Nov 18, an official said here Monday.

She will set off from the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, at 6.30 a.m. Nov 18 and end the walk at Dandi beach in Surat Dec 4.

The 17-day walk will see Jill Beckingham traverse a distance of nearly 360 km, with three days of rest periods en route.

Sponsored by top companies like Tata, Reliance ADAG Group, Mahindra & Mahindra, Essar, Aditya Birla Group, Cox and Kings, Godrej and GlaxoSmithKline, her unique effort has also been supported by Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and ace cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and the Association of British Scholars, Vadodara chapter, Gujarat.

The proceeds from the walk will support six NGOs, three in Mumbai and three in Gujarat, all founded by British nationals who have settled in India.

The Mumbai-based NGOs include Magic Bus, which works with disadvantaged children through sports, Muktangan, which is a teacher and community training centre, and Apnalaya, which works with children living in and around dump sites.

The Gujarat NGOs are the Akshar Trust, which works with hearing impaired children, Shram Mandir which works with leprosy patients and the Bhasha Centre which works with tribal people.

Incidentally, a large group of tribals from the Bhasha Centre will join Jill Beckingham in the last 10 km of the walk.

Almost a veteran in such long walks, Jill Beckingham has earlier walked from London to Brighton to raise money for NGOs in the Philippines when her husband was earlier posted as the British ambassador.

She herself feels inspired by Gandhiji’s Dandi march and his principles of fairness and equality among Indians.

“When we visited Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, I learnt more about the Gandhian principles of fairness, and his desire to see that all Indians are treated equally,” she said.

“I decided to walk the same route in a spirit of friendship between our two countries and at the same time raise money for the poor in both Mumbai and Gujarat,” she said.

“In 1930 when my great-grandfather walked from Sabarmati to Dandi for the cause of freedom, he termed his endeavour a battle of right over might. Today 80 years and some months later, Jill Beckingham, along with others, once again walks seeking the rights for those who have none,” said Tushar Gandhi.

He said in his message that each step that she takes will empower those who haven’t got their rights or those who are fighting for their rights.

The battle of right versus might of a different kind from that which Bapu undertook still continues, and we must all, as Bapu said then, “sympathise with the battle of right versus might”.

“So, march on Jill, your every step will bring hope and every stride will inspire. Good luck,” said Gandhi.

“I fully support the efforts of Jill Beckingham and her group in undertaking this daunting walk to raise funds for Indian charities. Good luck and good fund raising!” said Tendulkar in his message.

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