Jains demand safety measures on highways for travelling ascetics

With over 150 Jain sadhus and sadhvis killed in accidents on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway in the past four years, the community blames the authorities for ignoring requests for the provision of footpaths and police security

With a Jain sadhvi’s death in an accident on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway last week, the Jain community is demanding more safety measures on national highways, blaming the authorities for ignoring their earlier requests, resulting in the death of over 150 ascetics travelling on the highway in the past four years.

sadhvi Parvnidi Shreeji
When sadhvi Parvnidi Shreeji died in an accident last week, Jains launched a social media campaign, requesting motorists to drive more carefully

On November 13, a tanker plying on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway lost control and knocked down three Jain sadhvis. One of them, Parvnidi Shreeji (36) died on the spot, while the other two — Mantranidi Shreeji (32) and Guna Shreeji (51) — were admitted to a hospital with serious injuries.

The community sent this image to the government as a proposed design for footpaths along highways. Members of the community claim they have written to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The community sent this image to the government as a proposed design for footpaths along highways. Members of the community claim they have written to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Taking precautions
The community has since launched a social media campaign, asking motorists to drive more cautiously. With Jain sadhus and sadhvis spending eight months a year on vihar — travelling from place to place on foot on national highways to spread the message of their sacred principles — accidents such as the one that took place last week have claimed several lives in the past. As a precaution, the community members have tried to ensure that the wandering ascetics wear reflector jackets, but rash and negligent driving by motorists continues to take its toll.

A Jain sadhu, Vinamra Sagarji Maharajsaheb told mid-day, “Every year, around 70 sadhus and sadhvis are killed in accidents all over India, but the authorities are neglecting the issue. Even farmers travelling long distances on foot have perished due to the lack of pavements along the highways.” He added, “The government should make a footpath to protect all of us. They should also give us police protection to avoid such incidents during vihar.”

In Gujarat, the state government provides them police protection while they are on vihar, assigning one police jeep or bike with a constable to accompany them during their travels on the highway. Other states are yet to provide similar protection, however.

In fact, Jains allege that their demands have only met deaf ears in Maharashtra, leading to several more deaths every year. Some sadhvis said they also wrote to Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways, but received no response. After last week’s incident, they also wrote to PM Narendra Modi, but are still waiting for any action to be taken, they said.

Copspeak
A senior official from the city police said, on condition of anonymity, “Such incidents are not very common within Mumbai city, but occur more frequently on the highways, where the traffic is harder to control. However, we provide protection to the sadhus when we get orders to do so.”

70 Number of sadhus and sadhvis who are killed in accidents every year in the country

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