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HomeIndiaGovernanceYear before polls, Maharashtra’s mega Hindu pilgrimage to also offer ‘welfare darshan’

Year before polls, Maharashtra’s mega Hindu pilgrimage to also offer ‘welfare darshan’

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Maharashtra draws up a budget of Rs 3.18 crore for publicity along the route of the annual Ashadi Wari pilgrimage.

Mumbai: A year before Maharashtra goes to polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government has decided to tap the annual Ashadi Wari, a centuries-old pilgrimage that attracts lakhs of people, for a special publicity drive to talk up its various welfare schemes.

The state government has allotted Rs 3.18 crore for publicity along the alignment of the pilgrimage, which the warkaris undertake on foot, as well as a grand exhibition at Pandharpur, a town in Solapur district where the Wari culminates.

“Earlier, the department’s budgets were comparatively lesser. This time, we have more funds and thought that the Wari, where there is a natural congregation of large numbers of people, would be a good place to reach out to potential beneficiaries of government schemes,” Brijesh Singh, director general of information and public relations for the state government, told ThePrint.

The Wari, the most important pilgrimage in Maharashtra, starts from Dehu and Alandi near Pune in the Hindu month of Jyestha. Pilgrims walk to Pandharpur to reach the town on the banks of the Bhima River on the eleventh day of the Hindu month of Aashad, also celebrated as Ashadi Ekadashi.

The pilgrimage culminates at the feet of Lord Vitthal, considered to be an incarnation of Vishnu. The warkari sect which enthusiastically undertakes the pilgrimage every year mostly comprises farmers. This year, the Pandharpur Wari started from Dehu on 5 July. Besides warkaris, a number of people, including working professionals, from across the state join the Wari.

Special publicity bonanza

The Devendra Fadnavis-led government plans to go all out in its publicity drive during the Wari, having chalked out a plan that involves displays, performing artists, street plays, exhibitions, radio advertisements and so on.

The government has planned to set up two chariots to travel along the route of the pilgrimage, giving information about the government’s activities and schemes. It has decided to set aside Rs 44.20 lakh for its fabrication, design, decoration and layout, sound system, music, narration, payment to drivers and cleaners.

Similarly, the two routes usually taken for the pilgrimage will also have grand exhibition displays, for which the government estimates to spend Rs 45.24 lakh. This exhibition will include displays of photographs, videos, interactive tablets to disseminate information about government schemes, as well as helpers on the ground to answer any queries. The state is spending Rs 25 lakh to print booklets about its schemes, which it will distribute to the warkaris along the way.

The government expects to spend another Rs 15.75 lakh on artists to perform along the alignment, and Rs 11.19 lakh on streetplays. Besides, the government has approved an expenditure of Rs 8 lakh on mobile vans with LED walls projecting success stories of its schemes and Rs 6 lakh on a seven-day exhibition in Pandharpur.

All through the route of the Wari, FM radio stations will intermittently play jingles prepared by the government about its schemes, for which it has set aside a cost of Rs 12 lakh. The government will also ensure that its jingles are played at local bus stands.

Altogether, the government plans to shell out Rs 62.5 lakh for the creatives — ten audio jingles, ten audio advertisements, print creatives, booklets and so on — and another Rs 5 lakh to publicise this drive on social media.

“The world publicity is a misnomer here. The intention is to reach our schemes to the targeted beneficiaries,” Singh said. “We will give details about schemes relevant to the people gathered such as Jal Yukta Shivar, various scholarship schemes, schemes run for women and child development and so on.”

Feedback survey

While the BJP-led government is known to spend big on advertising and publicity, something that its political opponents constantly keep targeting it for, what stands out in its special drive for the Wari is that it is also spending a large chunk of the budget on a feedback exercise.

The state government has budgeted for Rs 78.10 lakh for designing and undertaking a survey to get the feedback of people on the pilgrimage about information they have received about the state’s schemes so far, if it was useful to them, their experiences, etc.

An official who did not wish to be named said the survey is being undertaken largely due to a central audit remark last year on the impact of the government’s schemes.

“The audit raised questions about whether the state has any evidence that information of its various schemes was actually reaching people despite publicity drives and what metrics we have to decide on the efficacy of these campaigns. A survey like this, where a large group of our targeted beneficiaries is present as respondents, will help us as well.”

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  1. This is something which is very much needed. Me being an alert citizen who is actively involved in political debates on Social Media but sometimes even i’m not aware of many Welfare Schemes which Government implement. So imagine how will those people get to know about it who are residing in interior villages. Government should Target majority of such Pilgrimage yatras for major awareness. Way to go ??

  2. This is the best example of beauty with brains. Not only does this initiative looks promising with all the gadgets and gizmos and exhibitions and media installations, but the essence and soul behind the idea is undisputedly one of the best I have come across. While I do believe agendas and motives of some government policies are politically driven, but so is everything else. Wrapping initiatives and awareness around important and meaningful events like the Warkari pilgrimage walk and involving the normal populace to witness the momentous event, is something that gets a big thumps up from me. Also, I agree with what Upanshu commented above , that the immediate feedback is a brilliant concept to make the participants feel equally responsible and empowered with their opinions and views. Best of luck to the state and central government to see this through.

  3. This might seem not as a very big thing for majority reading this but i feel this is the best approach to make Beneficiaries aware about Government schemes which are helpful for them in a big way. I would like to request Brijesh Singh sir to come up with more such initiatives. Being from a Farmer Family i would also like to volunteer for the same if needed. #KisanTheRealHero

  4. Well this is something that is actually needed on ground level. Kudos to them who came up with this idea because this is where acc to me govt lacked a bit. It all about making the people aware of various welfare schemes from which families can benefit from & according to me this is best way to go about it. Me being a alert citizen who is active on Social Media but still at times i’m unaware of many beneficial schemes which gets implemented but goes unnoticed. Way to go ??

  5. And then they said the government can’t be creative enough to blend welfare schemes in practical formats. Absolutely loving this initiative! Not only for the part that I get to join the Warkari sect farmers in their yatra, or being enlightened about the various welfare schemes and policies on the way through creative mediums…..but the immediate feedback that I get to give by the end of it all makes me feel more empowered and responsible. As a working professional, I’m truly looking forward to this initiative. Much much better than an international trip. Also, hats off the Maharashtra state government and Mr.Fadnavis for pooling in minds and resources to make this an iconic walk of the ages, for me, for the Warkaris and for everyone who’ll witness this.

  6. I have always been in favour of the Haj subsidy. The amount involved is a trifle. We are a deeply religious country. The aspect of secularism that distances the state from religious observances may not be feasible. It would feel odd if serving officers or ministers did not pay obeisance to a puja organised in an official location. In these circumstances, secularism should be seen as equal respect for all faiths, no discrimination or prejudice against the minorities.

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