The Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) Sunday attempted to create a Guinness World record by distributing 16,631 saplings of neem to volunteers of the National Service Scheme (NSS), linked to more than 350 colleges. The saplings are likely to be planted along the Pune-Pandharpur pilgrimage route taken by warkaris during Ashadhi Wari, said university officials.
With the record attempt, the SPPU announced the start of its ‘Green Wari’ initiative, which combines ecological awareness with the larger objective of promoting conservation of water resources and regenerating the tree cover.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Pune Guardian Minister Chandrakant Patil, Mayor Mukta Tilak, District Collector Naval Kishore Ram and SSPU Vice Chancellor Nitin Karmalkar, among others, were present at the event.
Fadnavis, who also administered an oath to participating NSS volunteers for ensuring a ‘Green Wari’ this year, said the pilgrimage has a tradition of more than 700 years and it should be a matter of privilege for students to be able to contribute towards making the journey of warkaris easier and more fulfilling.
VC Karmalkar said, “Attempting the world record is not a goal in itself. The goal is to make the wari more environmentally friendly. We have lined up several events throughout the wari days to ensure that pollution levels and plastic use goes down while making the journey more enriching for participants.”
Rajesh Pande, member of the SPPU’s Management Council, said NSS volunteers from various colleges under the SPPU will also conduct awareness drives, cleanliness campaigns and health camps over the next month.
He said the university will distribute at least 50 lakh disposable leaf plates (patravali) to warkaris to save water, which would otherwise be wasted to wash metal plates. “Also, think of the detergent that will not go down in the earth due to this,” said Pande, adding that the leaf plates will then be converted into manure.
The Green Wari programme will continue till July 15. The students of SPPU’s NSS unit started their own dindi (groups participating in the wari) several years ago with an aim to “participate in socially productive work, and experience a tradition in the state that has been practised for over seven hundred years”.
How the record was attempted
According to officials, the record for the most saplings distributed in a day is held by Habitat Schools, Ajman, UAE, which was achieved in April 2019. At that time, 9,371 saplings of Sesbania grandiflora, which is known in Maharashtra as Shevri, were distributed.
To break the record, at least 20,000 neem saplings were procured from nurseries around Pune. The university began planning to set this record more than six months ago.
On Sunday, students from more than 350 colleges linked to the university reached the campus early in the morning. Each student was given a sapling at every entry to the university premises. Their entry was recorded with a bar-coded wristband.
“Although we had planned for 20,000 students, by the time the event started, only 16,631 students had entered the premises after collecting their sapling. These saplings are 1.5 years old and 1.5-feet-tall. Every student who has received the sapling will be responsible for planting it at a designated stretch on the wari route and taking care of it for the next five years,” said Mohan Waman, principal of DY Patil College, Akurdi and NSS and students welfare advisor for SPPU.
Students were placed in a grid formation. At least a dozen entry points were formed from where the students could enter the premises and be counted with the help of the bar-coded wristband system. There was a LED screen to display every student’s number.
Students battle thirst, organisers point at Guinness
On Sunday, students started arriving at the venue early in the morning while the event started only around 11.30 am in the presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. By that time, students, who were sitting in open, started complaining of thirst. The organisers, however, said they could not provide water to students as the Guinness rules prohibit use of plastic at the venue of record attempt. Students had to battle thirst until the event finished by 12.30 pm.