“When I was in Mizoram, I happened to see a shop without a shopkeeper. Fruits were kept there with their prices written. Customers took what they wanted and put the respective amount in a box kept nearby. It taught me a lesson in honesty,“ recalled Dhiraj Kumar in his conversation with South First.
The 30-year-old from Jehanabad district of Bihar is touring India on his bicycle. He has already travelled through 21 states of India and Bangladesh.
He started the tour from Pathankot in Punjab and was in Hyderabad last week.
He has travelled across Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh.
He has been on his journey for 14 months and about a week now, with an aim to spread the message of communal harmony among different cultures and religions. He has ridden 12,165 km on his bicycle.
Dhiraj wants to spread the message throughout India that every person is the same and there should not be any discrimination based on the caste, religion, language, food, or culture of a person.
A lot to learn from India
He also says that since India was a diverse country with different cultures, people could learn a lot from each place.
“I have learned a lot throughout the journey. The Northeast gave me a lesson on gender equality. The society there has a space for women, and they are considered equals. I also experienced different food habits of people from the north and the south of India,” he said.
“While travelling, I understood how people are looking at other people with bias. By exploring and understanding different cultures, my outlook on the world changed,” added Dhiraj.
“I want to spread the message (‘Hey world, stop discrimination!’) that is written on the back of my bicycle. There should not be any discrimination, not just in India but the whole world. I want to bring the awareness that and want them to discuss the issues that are being caused due to discrimination based on people’s differences,” he said.
He has also travelled through Bangladesh and has a lot of praise towards them.
He said that they have a lot of respect towards Indians. He recalled them accompanying him during his journey and dropping him from one city to another.
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‘Reduce GST on bicycles’
Dhiraj, on his journey, is also supporting a lot of humanitarian causes and campaigns.
He is appealing to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman to reduce the GST on bicycles from 12 percent to 5 percent.
He said the bicycle is the common man’s vehicle, and it is now hard for them to afford one due to the increased prices.
“The bicycle is the common man’s vehicle. And the increased price of it nowadays makes it unaffordable to them. I appeal to the GST Council and minister Sitaraman to reduce the GST on bicycles so that everyone can afford them,” Dhiraj told South First.
Dhiraj, on his journey, stays at government shelter homes, homes of local residents, or by camping at certain places.
“I’ve got a lot of help from a lot of people throughout the journey. Many people have spent time with me and some of them have even extended their help by letting me stay at their homes,” he said.
In Dhiraj’s words, he encountered difficult moments three times during his journey.
“I’ve got into accidents twice. The first time was in Mizoram, and I had to change the bicycle as it was entirely damaged. The second accident — in Vijayawada — was a minor one, and I got the bicycle repaired without much difficulty,” he said.
From Hyderabad, was scheduled to travel to Tamil Nadu on Sunday, 15 January. He expects to cover Kerala, Karnataka, and Goa in the next leg of his journey.