Maitree Yatra (Calcutta-Rameswaram, Delhi-Calcutta, Cochin-Porbandar)
SEI plunged into the world of marine adventure sports in a blaze of glory with its first major expedition (Maitree Yatra) with trainees from the Institute on January 12th, 1988.
The run-up was marked by intensive training and a trial voyage that set off on the first day of the year. A sailing boat with complete equipment travelled up to Sandhead and returned to base on January 5th.
Maitree Yatra was conceived to celebrate 40 glorious years of Indian independence and give a call to dedicate the nation to the cause of communal harmony, national integration and world peace. The three-phased expedition, launched in collaboration with the Indian Navy and extensive government patronage, was envisaged as a Yatra round the country by a rowing boat and canoes.
The first phase consisted of a 56-day journey from Calcutta to Rameswaram along the sea coast by the historic boat, â€˜Kanhoji Angreâ€™, used by the founder of the Institute, Dr. Pinaki Ranjan Chatterjee in his expedition to the Andamans some 20 years back. Back in 1969, Dr. Chatterjee, along with George Albert Duke of the Indian Navy had rowed the non-motorised Kanhoji Angre â€“ given by Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers â€“ for 32 days to reach Port Blair in a pathbreaking expedition.
The Maitree Yatra was flagged off by the chief minister, Mr. Jyoti Basu, and the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Mr. Ajit Panja, on January 12th, 1988, also celebrated as â€˜Youth Dayâ€™ to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. The entire journey was unescorted.
The valiant voyagers, under the leadership of Mr. Rathin Mukherjee, one of the secretaries of the Institute, included Sarbasree Malay Bhattacharyya, Ranjit Karunakar, Tridib Chowdhury, Arindam Bose, Ajoy Roy and Prabir Roy from the Institute and Lt. Chandrasekhar of the Indian Navy. They sailed past Paradwip, Vishakhapatnam, Kakinara, Madras, Pondicherry and Pamban to reach Rameswaram after covering about 2,500 km by sea. Received by sundry dignitaries along their way, the crew succeeded in spreading the message of the Yatra among the local people of the shores they touched.
The second phase of the Maitree Yatra was a journey by kayak from Delhi to Calcutta. It was flagged off on Independence Day, 1988, by the then Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi from his residence, and subsequently from Okhla Bridge on the Jamuna by the Union Minister for Sports, Mrs. Margaret Alva. The crew, once again under the command of Mr. Rathin Mukherjee, paddled across 2,400 km in 41 days, touching Agra, Etwah, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Farakka, Nabadwip and Chinsurah, before reaching Babughat on 26th September.
Kanhoji Angre set forth on the third and final phase of the Yatra which commenced from Cochin on November 18th. It was flagged off by Commander-in-Chief, Southern Command, Vice Admiral L. Ramdas of the Indian Navy and Dr. Sheuli Chatterjee, Secretary General of the Institute.
The destination was Porbandar, but the voyagers faced an unforeseen obstacle. Soon after they sailed from Bombay, the sea turned turbulent and the wind turned opposite. As a result, the boat drifted back to Bombay. On the advice of the Western Command, Indian Navy, the expedition was held up at Bombay till the wind changed course.
The voyagers, however, were determined to complete the journey. So great was their enthusiasm that the Indian Navy granted them permission and the last lap was undertaken from Bombay on April 11th, 1989. They were escorted by the coast guard vessel, CGS Rajhans, under Lt. Commander Sekhar. The final phase was completed under the leadership of Ranjit Karunakar.
The seamen reached Porbandar on April 14th, 1989, having covered about 6,142 km over a period of more than a year.