Activists appeal to the religious sentiments of devotees passing through the city to wean them off beedis, liquor and substance abuse. Besides creating a spiritual awakening among devotees, the wari also plays a role in keeping the warkaris away from substance abuse. However, activists say this is not enough and that the warkaris should be made aware of the larger malice of tobacco which directly affects their health, more so because, unlike liquor and meat, its consumption is not forbidden for warkaris.
It is a common tradition among the warkaris to keep away from liquor and meat after they are initiated into the warkari fold, the process being referred to as ‘maal ghalane’. But some warkaris find a way out of this restriction by removing the maal before consuming liquor.
This fact was pointed out by noted author and founder of Muktangan De-addiction Centre Dr Anil Avchat. He said, “The warkari tradition has limited the consumption of liquor to an extent. But those addicted to liquor do circumvent the norms by keeping the maal away before drinking.
However, a larger threat is posed by tobacco consumption because this substance is not forbidden for warkaris.” He pointed out that people in rural areas chew tobacco or smoke bidi without inhibition and this affects their health directly.
Avchat said that even religious strictures do not forbid consumption of tobacco and Beratt — a reason why 60 per cent cases of oral cancer are found in India. To address this problem, Muktangan distributed pamphlets for awareness among warkaris on Saturday, a day before the International Anti-Narcotics Day.
The pamphlets appealed to the religious sentiments of the warkaris in this way: “the mouth which takes Vithoba’s and Mauli’s (Sant Dnyaneshwar) name, how can it consume tobacco?” This was the fifth year of this initiative.
Mukta Puntambekar of Muktangan said, “Their emotions can play a major role in relieving the warkaris from tobacco, liquor and drugs. Since tobacco is cheap and available freely, it is not looked upon here as an addiction. This is the major problem.” Muktangan is organising a series of programmes over the next month to create awareness against addiction.