As many as 2,000 students from 400 colleges affiliated to Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) are participating in the Palkhi which entered the city on Wednesday. “This year, the university’s dindi (pilgrim group) has the theme of ‘Swachh Wari-Swastha Wari-Nirmal Wari-Harit Wari-Lokshahi Wari Dindi’,” said Rajesh Pande, member, SPPU’s management council member, adding that students have organised various activities, such as composting and distribution of free organic manure to farmers, along the route.
Besides collection of used papers and sanitation measures, awareness about open defecation, provision of toilets for villagers, schools and colleges, environmental, democracy and voter awareness in villages through street plays , and environmental awareness among warkaris and villagers on the route, have also been planned through affiliated colleges.
At D Y Patil College of Engineering in Akurdi, for instance, a team of 300, including the campus director, walked with the warkaris even as pharmacy students distributed free medicines to the pilgrims. “Our college team joined the procession while they were heading to Vishrantwadi. It started pouring, but that did not stop the warkaris or the volunteers. We saw them cooking food under parked trucks to avoid the rain. The determination and will power they have inspired us,”said Varsha Kotipalli, a second year engineering student.
City colleges are not just sending students as volunteers but also playing host to pilgrims. Dr Savita Datar, principal of SP College, “SP College’s former principal, Dr S.V. Dandekar was a follower of Sant Dynaneshwar Maharaj. In his remembrance, every year, we invite a dindi of 35-40 warkaris. We extend hospitality to them and sing bhajans with them. This year also a dindi will be coming to the premises.”
However, some students couldn’t take part in the procession due to security reasons. Lakshmi Kumar, director of the Orchid school in Baner, whose students participate in the palkhi procession every year and volunteer for clean-up, said this year owing to a change in route, her students were not allowed to join the procession. “They went halfway in the bus but since the route has changed from Khadki side, they had to return, given the sheer number of pilgrims,” she said.