|Sandeep Silas, IRTS|
Sandeep Silas, a senior railway officer working in road transport and highways ministry, is on a unique mission called “Garland of Peace”. Silas, a 1984 batch Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS) officer and masters in public administration from New York’s Syracuse University, is trying to convince the United Nations that…all war ruins in the world should be declared as peace heritage sites so as to make yet another effort towards peace building, peace education and peace tourism. Silas claims that Sri Lankan government has already accepted his idea of making a Sita-Rama Heritage Tourism Trail in the island nation, linking all the Ramayana sites for promotion of tourism.
Silas feels that Garland of Peace would help transcending animosity, and remind leaders to take the last chance of diplomacy and refrain from pressing the war button. The concept is based on the fact that war is never a necessity and is invariably thrust upon innocent people. Whether the nation wins or loses the war, the losers are always the innocent men and women.
For Silas, the idea struck into his mind when he rode on the Death Valley Railway in Thailand in 2004. “I did not realize then that the memories of this journey would continue to haunt me whenever I board a train. It was as if I was riding trampling human bodies beneath the wheels, hearing anguished cries of POWs and laborers who died while laying the same railway track,” he wrote in a post in Garland of Peace’s site (http://www.garlandofpeace.com). After all, during the World War-II, Japan used 60,000 prisoners of war from England, America, Australia and Holland alongside 200,000 labourers from India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma and Thailand, to build this 415-km-long railway line. It is believed that over 16,000 war prisoners and 100,000 labourers died due to starvation, lack of medical care, torture etc. After all, Japan was in a hurry to complete the track, and the job was over in 1943 in a record sixteen months’ time against the earlier estimate of five years.
Silas, who is now private secretary to road transport and highways minister Oscar Fernandes, was instrumental in conceptualizing the year-long celebration of the 150th Year of Railways in India. He was also closely associated with the first-ever mobile science exhibition on rail in the world when the 12-coach Vigyan Rail had an eight-month-long journey to end in 2004, the year of scientific awareness.
Senior Indian diplomat and former Permanent Representative of India to UNESCO, Ms Bhaswati Mukherjee wrote to Silas on his peace project: “The proposal is interesting and innovative and closely linked to conflict resolution, peace education and peace building. These issues would need to be discussed among interested delegations in the UN General Assembly in New York.”
Only time will tell whether Silas succeeds in convincing the UN body to own up his idea to silence the war mongers.