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Expressing concern over pollution of Chandrabhaga river which flows through the temple town of Pandharpur, the Bombay High Court today asked representatives of the Warkari sect which law allows rituals on the riverbank.

Lakhs of Waar-karis, devotees of Lord Vitthal, make annual pilgrimage on foot to the deity’s temple at Pandharpur in Solapur district of Maharashtra every year.

To curb pollution of the river, the High Court has banned the entry into the water to perform rituals.

Warkaris want revocation of the ban, saying that taking holy dip in the Chandrabhaga is a 700-year-old tradition.

A division bench, headed by Justice Abhay Oka, today granted the lawyers representing the Warkari sect three weeks to show how rituals can be performed on the riverbank without polluting the water. It also sought to know how performance of rituals on the riverbank can be justified under the law.

“We are not against the rituals but are concerned about the pollution,” said the judges.

The court asked Warkaris to come up with suggestions by March 18 about how the pollution can be avoided. The judges noted that lakhs of people visit Pandharpur every year, putting a heavy strain on the local authorities. The Warkaris pointed out that despite court’s direction, amenities such as toilets were still inadequate in the town.

The HC asked the authorities to look into the issue.

The court is hearing a public interest litigation filed by Campaign Against Manual Scavenging in Maharashtra.

The PIL seeks steps to maintain cleanliness in the temple town. It also wants eradication of manual scavenging in the state, especially in Solapur district, with implementation of Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993.

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