Considering the heavy influx of devotees in Pandharpur pilgrim town during ‘Ashadi Ekadashi’ in July-end, the Bombay High Court asked Maharashtra government to submit an expert committee’s report on measures it proposes to take to manage huge crowds during the event.
The direction was given by a bench of Justices Naresh Patil and S B Shukare who were hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Campaign Against Manual Scavenging and other NGOs.
Government Pleader Abhinandan Vagiyani sought two weeks’ time to submit a report of the expert committee headed by the Divisional Commissioner on the issues of providing temporary toilets and accommodation to pilgrims during the festival.
Accordingly, the bench deferred the hearing of PIL to June 24.
Nearly 15 lakh devotees (known as ‘Warkaris’ in local parlance) from various parts of the state visit Pandharpur town on foot every year to pay obeisance to Lord Vithoba. This year, the yatra culminates in Pandharpur on July 27.
‘Warkari’ organisations have intervened in the matter seeking proper toilet arrangements and accommodation. They alleged that the practice of manual scavenging is still on in the pilgrim town while the government denied that such activity is in vogue.
The petitioner’s counsel Uday Warunjikar alleged that the government was not sensitive to the problems faced by devotees. He suggested that temporary toilets be constructed immediately to cater to the pilgrims this festive season.
The court also expressed a view that short-term measures like opening of mobile toilets should be taken up on a war footing and the government should spell out its time-bound programme on this aspect in its report on the next hearing.