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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 17:31 GMT
Gandhi truck set to hit the road
By Ram Dutt Tripathi
BBC News, Lucknow

Mahatma Gandhi: Revered as father of the nation
Gandhi: Revered as father of the nation
An old Ford truck that took the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi to the river Ganges is being repaired for a ceremony marking the legendary leader's death.

The vintage vehicle, unused since 1948, has been lying in a state of disrepair at a museum in the city of Allahabad.

Engineers were surprised to find the Ford's engine was still in "excellent condition", an official told the BBC.

Millions attended the funeral of Gandhi, hero of India's freedom struggle, who was assassinated in 1948.

Historic journey

India's first prime minister after independence from the British, Jawaharlal Nehru, rode with Gandhi's ashes in the Ford truck.

The Ford truck that carried Gandhi's ashes in 1948
The truck has not been used since 1948 (Picture courtesy of Allahabad museum)

He was accompanied by the murdered leader's son, Devdas, and the freedom fighter, Sardar Vallabhai Patel.

The ashes were immersed at the confluence of the rivers Yamuna and Ganges in Allahabad on 12 February, 1948. Millions of mourners lined the route of the bus as it made its historic journey.

Officials say they aim to have the bus roadworthy again by 30 January, the anniversary of the day Gandhi was shot, aged 78, by a Hindu extremist.

The bus will be used on 12 February, in a re-enactment of the procession which took Gandhi's ashes to be scattered.

The 1947 model Ford truck was provided and decorated by the military. It was handed over to the fire brigade of the state police for safe keeping.

Later, when a proper museum had been established in Allahabad, the historic vehicle was transferred to its custody as a national asset.

'Cleaning'

The managing director of the Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, Umesh Sinha, spotted the bus while visiting the museum last August.

It just needed some cleaning - when we started it up the engine was as soundless as a new one
Roadways manager PR Belwarair

"This vehicle associated with the last journey of Mahatma Gandhi is an invaluable part of our heritage," he told the BBC.

"The corporation has taken responsibility to spruce up the motor so that it really looks like a Ford vehicle."

Transport officials wanted to take the bus to their workshop for repairs, but museum rules did not allow them.

So work has been carried out inside the museum garage itself.

State roadways regional manager PR Belwarair said: "Engineers were surprised to find that the engine of the motor vehicle was in very excellent condition, despite being parked for several decades.

"It just needed some cleaning. When we started it up the engine was as soundless as a new one."

The most difficult job was getting new tyres, but manufacturer CEAT agreed to supply new ones which have now been fitted.

Mr Belwarair says the vehicle is ready for its road trial inside the museum campus.




SEE ALSO:
Timeline: India
09 Nov 05 |  Country profiles
Mahatma Gandhi death plotter dies
28 Nov 05 |  South Asia
Mahatma Gandhi's fading dream
31 Mar 04 |  South Asia


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