Nine countries, close to three lakh kilometres travelled by foot and the identification of more than 25 problems eating into the very fabric of our country later, their motto remains the same: keep walking.
Clad in black, rain-proof jumpsuits and espousing the causes of global peace, a former 45-year-old teacher from a government school in Lucknow and two of his students have made mention in the Limca Book of World Records two years in a row for what they call their 'global padyatra'. They were in Delhi last week.
"We've been walking more or less non-stop since the year 1996," said Awadh Bihari Lal who is part of the 20-member Yuva Jagriti International Jan Jagran Anterved Sewa Sansthan.
"We lost some of our volunteers on the way but we didn't stop till we reached an immediate target of three lakh kilometres travelled by foot. We will now be walking down to Chennai from where we plan to go South Korea."
Since 1996, local injustice triggered Lal's resolve to undertake a walk to awaken the local administration to the issues confronting his village and take remedial action.
Seventeen years later, Lal and his colleagues Mahendra and Jitendra Pratap Singh have traversed through neighbouring Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and even the country's 'hostile neigbours', China and Pakistan.
The Limca Book of World Records has recorded their feat 'The Human Story of the Longest World Padyatra' four times till 2013 in addition to the Guinness Book of World Records having done the same once in the year 2012. The group's exploits were exhibited through a Discovery Channel documentary in the year 2009.
"People are the same everywhere and so are their problems," said Mahendra. "They are all suffering from the same issues - economic and environmental deprivation, lack of food and proper healthcare and, the biggest problem of them all - illiteracy."
What started as an exercise to raise issues of local misgovernance in Uttar Pradesh has extended beyond international borders with such enthusiasm, according to Lal, that the people and some representatives of the local administration across several countries have walked with them.
"Wherever we go, the crowd swells," Lal said. "So much so, that the administration walks with us to areas where they might have shied away from going so far due to sheer irresponsibility. And, in many cases, action follows immediately."