As lakhs of warkaris on their way to Pandharpur started their 21-day-long journey across the hills and valleys of the state, they discussed a range of issues such as loan waiver disbursal, farm distress and even temple management.
Many warkaris from agrarian families rued that the slow pace of loan waiver disbursal had compounded their problems.
Bheemrao Patil, a farmer from Naigaon village in Bhor taluka, said due to the government’s “failure” to implement the waiver in time, the interest on their loans was piling up. Patil, who has an outstanding loan of Rs 60,000 from the Pune District Central Cooperative Bank, said, “In fact, this waiver has added to my indebtedness”.
But some other devotees, like Pralad Agaje Wagh from Jadgaon in Aurangabad district, said they were satisfied with the decision of the government to waive their loans. Wagh was unperturbed by the delay in the implementation of the waiver as he believes that the government’s “intentions were right”.
Before the Lok Sabha and state elections in 2014, many leaders of the warkari community had actively campaigned for the BJP and the Shiv Sena as, according to them, the erstwhile Congress-NCP government had failed to keep its promises to the community. However, four years later, some of the community leaders seemed to have second thoughts.
The decision of the state government to take over the management of some temples, such as Shani Shingnapur, and to appoint party members as trustees in other temples, has also touched a nerve with certain sections of the warkari community.
Bapu Maharaj Raokar, a leader of the community, expressed his unhappiness with the government’s decision to appoint leaders from the party as trustees of famous temples in the state.
Raokar, who hails from the Konkan region, was also critical of the government’s decision to take over the management of the Shani Shingnapur temple. “Temples should be run by the devotees. Government interference is uncalled for in this matter,” he said.
“We were promised that our members will be part of the board for the Vitthal Rukmani temple management committee in Pandharpur. Instead, the government decided to appoint a political person,” he said. In the next general election, the BJP may face a backlash because of these reasons, said Raokar.
Rajabhau Chopdar, trustee of the Alandi Devasthan, said the turnout of warkaris was normal, with more than 400 dindis accompanying the palkhi of Sant Dyaneshwar. “We expect the crowds to swell as the wari reaches Phaltan,” he said.
Despite parts of the state awaiting adequate rain, most warkaris said they have managed to complete sowing, while others said they have postponed rest of the cultivation till after the pilgrimage.