Walk Tall!

Children Become Agents of Change on India’s Roads

The strong message of using non-motorised transport to transform cities was delivered at a massive road safety campaign, in which Clean Air Asia was a knowledge partner, undertaken by 100,000 school children from India’s National Capital Region

“We don’t cycle today. We don’t walk today,” chided Rohit Baluja, President of Institute of Road Traffic Education in New Delhi at a recent event in the Indian capital dedicated to road safety. There was both angst and nostalgia in the voice of Baluja, one of India’s well- known voices of non-motorised transport. Narrating how he used to cycle to his school near the famous Connaught Place in New Delhi every day, he said the peaceful co-existence of different users of roads, including cyclists and walkers, was palpable during those days, “fifty years ago”. Home to nearly 8 million motorised vehicles, New Delhi is notorious for its abominable road accident record. According to published figures of the Transport Research Wing of the Indian government’s Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and National Crime Records Bureau for the year 2013, five people are killed and 20 more are injured every hour on Delhi’s roads. A large number of the victims in the capital are pedestrians and cyclists mowed down by speeding vehicles.

In the face of such chilling statistics, there is hope in the horizon for a city that would be liveable for its citizens. A massive 100,000 students from 100 city schools have participated in a road safety campaign in the National Capital Region of India. A highlight of their campaign was the use of the medium of cinema to educate road users about safety. At a well-attended function held at the PVR Plaza cinema in Connaught Place on April 25, hundreds of school children came to watch films made by their counterparts during the year-long campaign, called Steering to Safety. “This initiative involving children in a creative process will grow and cover the whole country,” said legendary Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal, who was the Chief Guest at the event. The films were judged by an eminent jury comprising of actor-director Amol Palekar, filmmaker Shoojit Sircar and theatre personality Sanjna Kapoor.

“Cinema can deliver any message more forcefully by bringing people together,” said Jean-Marc Sere-Charlet, Minister Counselor at the Embassy of France in India. Also present were Rebecca Lee, Director, Communications and Brand Image of Michelin (Africa, India and the Middle East), eminent educationist Shyama Chona and Baluja. Initiated by PVR Nest, the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of PVR Limited, India’s biggest film entertainment company, with its campaign partner Michelin India, the Steering to Safety event witnessed the screening of the films containing road safety messages made by school children. Three of the films, which were awarded by the jury, will be shown at select PVR cinemas across the country reaching out to 80 million people.

Clean Air Asia was one of the knowledge partners of the campaign, conducting awareness workshops on walkability audits and livability for content carriers, students and Resident Welfare Associations

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