A barefoot movement to help the poor walk safely

Bengaluru duo roughs it out to convince people to donate footwear

It was not a barefoot beach holiday. When Joyappa Achaiah and Lim Changappa, both 36, doffed their footwear and walked to work for 100 days from May to August, they were keen to make a point.

A large segment of the population, they say, cannot afford footwear. This, despite India being the second large producer in the world. The Bengaluru-based entrepreneurs came up with the Barefoot India Campaign to drive home the message, that the poor should be able to walk safely. A month-long footwear collection drive has begun in Bengaluru as part of the effort, from September 3.

‘Essential gear’

On what motivates them, Mr. Achaiah said, “We’ve been doing multiple drives to educate the girl child, and on women’s safety and environment protection. But these are initiatives that a lot of other NGOs have also taken up. We thought about the one thing that everyone needs, which is footwear. It’s not just part of attire, but essential protective gear.”

Before launching the campaign, they visited villages and slums and spoke to people about what they needed the most. “More than money, they highlighted the difficulty of walking without cover for feet. More than 10% of the poor in the State cannot afford footwear. We want to help them,” said Mr. Changappa.

The activists decided to convince by example, and took up the 100-day no-footwear challenge.

For the collection drive, cardboard boxes are being kept in public locations like ITPL, Manyata Tech Park, Embassy Golf Links, Forum Mall and Phoenix Mall, and in colleges. “People can drop their used pairs,” he said.

Those in good condition will be distributed directly, and the rest, refurbished.

The entrepreneurs have petitioned the Karnataka government to initiate a ‘Padharaksha Bhagya’ programme to supply footwear to 10 lakh needy people. A marathon in November and a shot at a Guinness record with a 100 ft rangoli of a bare foot are on the cards.

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